The Role of Language-Specific Phonology: Tracking Linguistic Variables in Khalkha Mongolian
AuthorLaCross, Amy Beth
vowel pattern frequency
artificial grammar learning
AdvisorOhala, Diane K.
Ussishkin, Adam P.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractPrevious research on speakers' abilities to track non-adjacent dependencies (e.g., vowels or consonants that co-occur across syllables) in artificial grammar learning (AGL) tasks has shown that the acquisition of these patterns is extremely difficult (e.g. Newport&Aslin 2004; Gómez 2002; Bonatti, PenÞa, Nespor&Mehler 2005). One assumption made in this literature is that all speakers of all languages should be capable of tracking these patterns even when the native language of those speakers contains no such non-adjacent dependencies. This dissertation questions this assumption by testing whether native Khalkha Mongolian speakers attend to and track the frequency of vowel patterns and harmonic class size in their language. It also tests their ability to acquire non-adjacent vocalic dependencies in AGL tasks.Because Khalkha displays [ATR] vowel harmony (Svantesson, Tsendina, Karlsson&Franzén 2005) which restricts vowel co-occurrences, it was hypothesized that Khalkha speakers are biased towards attending to the frequency and form with which these vowel patterns occur. The results of three experiments indicated that Khalkha speakers both attend to and track the frequency with which vowel patterns occur. These results also indicate that Khalkha speakers build abstract categories based on the relative token numbers of [+ATR] and [-ATR]harmonic spans.Khalkha speakers were further tested in three experiments which focused on speakers' ability to acquire novel non-adjacent vocalic dependencies in AGL tasks. The results indicated that participants successfully acquired vocalic dependencies (both harmonic and disharmonic) in all three experiments. These results indicate that Khalkha speakers' attention is biased towards vowels, regardless of harmonic status of the item.Collectively, these results highlight the role of language-specific phonology in the ways that speakers abstract and utilize phonological information. The special status of harmonic vowel patterns and harmonic class size are new variables with which to conduct future research on vowel harmonic languages and with vowel harmonic language speakers. The effects of language-specific phonology on speech perception and lexical access must be considered a crucial aspect in future psycholinguistic research, particularly in regards to the aspects of language toward which speakers attend.
Degree ProgramGraduate College