Hyun-ju Kim

Stony Brook University
Talk Title: 
Syllable Structure, Frequency, Analogy, and Phonetics: Factors in North Kyungsang Korean Accentuation of Novel Words
Event Type: 
Dissertation Defense
Spring 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012, 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm
SBS S207


North Kyungsang Korean (NKK) is a pitch accent language in which each word has one of a restricted set of possible tonal patterns, and where the tonal pattern of a given lexical word is not fully predictable. This dissertation reports on a corpus study of accent patterns in existing words and the results of a study in which NKK speakers were asked to produce novel forms. This study demonstrated that when NKK speakers produce novel words, their accent patterns reveal regular tendencies, most notably a tendency for heavy syllables to attract accent. An experiment in which speakers were asked to produce novel forms that differed in only one segment from existing forms revealed that these tendencies do not originate from analogy to phonetically similar familiar words. Rather, they reflect a statistical association in the lexicon between accent and heavy syllables, though this association was even stronger in novel words than in existing words. In addition, phonetic factors predicting the position of accent were found: accent was more likely in syllables with aspirated onset consonants and in syllables containing high vowels, perhaps due to the acoustic property of higher F0 which is shared by high vowels, vowels following aspirated consonants, and accented (high-toned) vowels.

I argue that NKK speakers’ behavior in accenting novel words reflects a set of universal markedness constraints. In native existing words, constraints which require lexical entries to surface faithfully in the output outrank these markedness constraints, but when no lexical entry is present, the effects of the markedness constraints emerge. I present a grammar involving a set of stochastically ranked constraints which predicts the patterns of both existing and novel words, and present evidence that this grammar is learnable on the basis of the patterns of existing words. The data from the accentuation of novel words supports the conclusion that speakers tend to extend statistical tendencies of the lexicon to novel forms when such tendencies are consistent with cross-linguistic phonological tendencies.