Jonathan Rawski: invited talk at Institut Jean Nicod (March. 15)

Location: Institut Jean Nicod, École Normale Supérieure, Paris
Date: March 15, 2018
Title: The Logical Complexity of Phonology Across Speech and Sign


Jonathan Rawski gave a talk at Institut Jean Nicod, École Normale Supérieure, Paris on March 15. The talk is titled "The Logical Complexity of Phonology Across Speech and Sign".

Bleow is the abstract of his talk. 

        Logic has always played a central role in the study of natural language meaning, but logic can also be used to describe the structure of words and morphemes. Linguistic constraints on well-formed surface and underlying representations, as well as mappings between them, are known to occupy subclasses of the Regular Class of languages and relations, which correspond to weak fragments of first-order logic (Rogers and Pullum 2011). These classes make plausible cognitive predictions, have efficient learning algorithms, and are more easily learnable by humans in learning experiments (Heinz forthcoming). Recent, ongoing work has shown that the simplest of these subclasses cover a variety of linguistic domains, spanning phonology, morphology, morphosemantics, and perhaps even syntax.

        The logical perspective above offers a clear way to investigate whether the computational properties of phonology hold independently of modality. Many phonologists claim that the characteristics of the phonological system are inextricably dependent on the physical articulators which externalize it (Hayes et al., 2004). However, others use signlanguage phonology as evidence for an “algebraic” phonology of computational rules that hold regardless of the system of articulation used, i.e. independent of modality (Berent 2013). I will show that the logical perspective offers a clear way to assess the merits of those arguments by comparing the complexity of several phonological processes in speech and sign - partial reduplication, metathesis, and compound reduction. I show that the sequential nature of these processes occupy the same subclass across modalities, which provides evidence that aspects of the phonological system are indeed amodal. I will discuss how lifting the sign representation from strings to graphs may offer a more complete view, and also provide a bridge for analyzing linguistic structure from many domains in a unified way across speech and sign.