Linguistics and English Language

Bilingualism and Developmental Linguistics research group

Speaker: Mits Ota (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Child consonant harmony – not!

Abstract: Developmental linguists and theoretical phonologists have long been vexed by young children's production of wordforms that appears to exhibit consonant place harmony (e.g., doggy > [gɔgi]). Most other well-known features of early word production are consistent with what is typically avoided in mature phonological systems, suggesting a shared underlying principle (e.g., consonant clusters are typologically marked AND children tend to reduce them to singletons). But long-distance place agreement of consonants is not a common phenomenon in adult phonology; if anything, most languages show the opposite tendency to avoid place-sharing consonants separated by a vowel. In this talk, I will argue that this type of parallelism does not apply to consonant harmony because child 'consonant harmony' is less to do with a phonological process than copying of segments to cope with fragile lexical memory of dissimilar consonants. I support this interpretation by reviewing evidence that 1) child 'consonant harmony' usually results in identical, not just place-sharing, consonants, 2) when learning wordforms, infants are challenged by dissimilar segments within words, and 3) older children and adults also resort to consonant copying during initial stages of wordform learning. Furthermore, I will discuss why this type of learning bias does not appear to dictate the shape of words in the adult lexicon.


Please contact Aya Awwad or Chase Yang to find out specific dates for this semester and/or to be added to the mailing list. Please specify your preference of bilingualism or developmental linguistics mailing lists. We will send the information to both mailing lists.

Jan 30 2023 -

Bilingualism and Developmental Linguistics research group

2023-01-30: Child consonant harmony – not!

Room 7.18, 40 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JX