Phonological reanalysis is guided is guided by markedness: the case of Malagasy weak stems
[to appear] Kuo, Jennifer. "Phonological reanalysis is guided is guided by markedness: the case of Malagasy weak stems." Phonology.PDF
Abstract: A key goal in phonology is to understand the factors that affect phonological learning. This paper addresses the issue by examining how paradigms are reanalyzed over time. Malagasy has a class of stems, called weak stems, where final consonants alternate when suffixed. Comparison of historical and modern Malagasy shows that weak stem paradigms have undergone extensive reanalysis in a way that cannot be predicted by the probabilistic distribution of alternants. This poses a problem for existing quantitative models of morphophonological learning, where reanalysis is always towards the most probable alternant. I argue instead that reanalysis in Malagasy is driven by both distributional factors and a markedness bias. To capture the Malagasy pattern, I propose a Maximum Entropy learning model (Goldwater & Johnson, 2003), with a markedness bias implemented via the model’s prior probability distribution. This biased model successfully predicts the direction of reanalysis in Malagasy, outperforming purely distributional models.