The listener in language change
- Language changes constantly, in ways that can be influenced by factors both language-internal, such as word frequency, and language-external, such as social organization and attitudes. A major challenge for linguistic theory is to give a unified explanation of these constraints on language change. In this dissertation, I argue that this challenge can be addressed by looking to spoken language perception, where passive but powerful perceptual biases give rise to many similar constraints on how listeners update the cognitive representations they draw upon for language use. I present an approach to language change in which perceptual biases in the listener play a central role. I ground this approach in an exemplar-based computational model, which is able to recreate empirically-observed general properties of sound change. I then test the approach by integrating experimentally-supported perceptual biases with computational modeling and novel corpus methods across two studies. In the first study, I apply the computational model to simulate word-frequency effects in sound change. I show that different word-frequency effects in different kinds of sound change follow from a single perceptual bias, whereby high-frequency words are recognized more easily than low-frequency words when acoustically ambiguous. In the second study, I extend the listener-based approach to the effect of improving interethnic social attitudes on the spread of lexical items across ethnic groups in New Zealand. Drawing on biases in the perception of 'other-accented' words, I make specific predictions for the spread of the tag "eh" from indigenous Māori to White Pākehā, which I test with novel corpus methods. Taken together, these two studies highlight how passive but powerful perceptual biases in the listener can give a unified explanation of different constraints on language change.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Todd, Simon John
|Jurafsky, Dan, 1962-
|Jurafsky, Dan, 1962-
|Degree committee member
|Stanford University, Department of Linguistics.
|Statement of responsibility
|Simon John Todd.
|Submitted to the Department of Linguistics.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2019.
- © 2019 by Simon John Todd
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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