Phonological markedness effects in reanalysis

Kuo, Jennifer. (2023). Phonological markedness effects in reanalysis. PhD dissertation. UCLA.


Abstract: Paradigms with conflicting data patterns can be difficult to learn, resulting in acquisition error. In this dissertation, I look at how paradigms are reanalyzed over time to gain insight into the factors that influence morphophonological learning. Existing models of morphophonology (e.g. Hare & Elman 1995; Albright 2002b,a, 2010) predict reanalysis to be frequency-matching, occurring in a way that matches probabilistic distributions within the paradigm. I propose that in fact, reanalysis responds to two factors: both frequency-matching and a bias towards less marked outputs. Additionally, markedness effects in reanalysis are argued to be restricted to so-called ‘active’ markedness effects, which are already present in the language as stem phonotactics.
I present three case studies, all from Austronesian languages, where reanalysis is arguably sensitive to a markedness bias, and confirm this by implementing a quantitative model of reanalysis. This model, outlined in Chapter 2, simulates the cumulative effect of reanalyses over time with an iterated learning paradigm. In each iteration, learning is modeled using Maximum Entropy Harmonic Grammar (MaxEnt; Smolensky 1986; Goldwater & Johnson 2003), with a markedness bias implemented as a Gaussian prior (Wilson 2006).
The three studies are presented in Chapters 3-5. All three cases involve paradigms where there is ambiguity in how the suffixed forms will surface, resulting in reanalysis of these suffixed forms. The first case study concerns Malagasy weak stems; frequency-matching models predict reanalysis towards one alternant, but instead there has been reanalysis towards another statistically dispreferred alternant. I argue that this outcome is motivated by avoidance of intervocalic stops, and show that this analysis does better than alternative explanations.
The second and third case studies concern Samoan and Māori. In both languages, certain suffixes have multiple allomorphs with an unpredictable distribution. In Samoan (Chapter 4), reanalysis is generally towards the suffix allomorph predicted by frequency-matching models, but is also modulated by OCP-place effects (McCarthy 1988, 1994). Specifically, suffixed forms which violate OCP-place are more likely to be reanalyzed. In Māori, reanalysis is towards a suffix allomorph that is not predicted by frequency-matching models. I argue that reanalysis has instead been motivated by avoidance of both vowel hiatus and heavy syllables.
All three languages show evidence of reanalysis that is sensitive to a markedness bias. Moreover, all three cases are also consistent with the principle of active markedness, as the markedness effects found in reanalysis are already present in the language-specific phonotactics. Based on these results, I argue for a richer model of reanalysis in which phonotactic principles serve as a learning bias.