Author Archives: Matt Goldrick

Workshop announcement and call for posters: Testing Models of Phonetics and Phonology

Workshop announcement and call for posters
Testing Models of Phonetics and Phonology
Workshop at the Linguistic Institute 2011: Language in the World
University of Colorado at Boulder
Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Co-sponsored by
Northwestern Department of Linguistics
Stanford Department of Linguistics
National Science Foundation

Workshop website

This single day workshop aims to build connections between computational, experimental, and grammar-based research on phonetics and phonology. Studies using each of these general methodologies often have similar goals and produce mutually informing results, but they are usually presented in distinct journals and conferences, creating a barrier to their integration. The workshop brings together researchers in the areas of speech production, speech perception, and modeling of language acquisition.

Spoken sessions

The balance between the gradient and the discrete in language production

Gary Dell (U Illinois Urbana Champaign)
Implicit learning of artificial phonotactic patterns in the production system:
Connections to the perceptual system and to real phonotactic knowledge

Matt Goldrick (Northwestern)
Gradient symbol processing in speech production

Listener adaptation to variation

Jennifer Cole (U Illinois Urbana Champaign)
Modeling listener variability in prosody perception using transcription and
imitation as indirect measures of linguistic processing

Meghan Sumner (Stanford)
Variation-driven speech perception

Acquisition biases and typological patterns

Andrew Wedel (U Arizona)
Extending computational models into the laboratory:
Usage biases and the development of contrastive phoneme inventories

Joe Pater (U Massachusetts Amherst)
Formally biased phonology: Complexity in learning and typology


Call for poster submissions

In addition to the spoken session, a poster session will be held during the workshop. We invite submission of abstracts reporting computational, experimental, and grammar-based research on phonetics and phonology.

Abstracts should be a one-page .pdf file, formatted at minimum 12-point single-spaced with 1 inch margins. Tables, graphs and references can be on a separate page. Abstracts must be submitted electronically to Deadline for submissions: May 1, 2011.

Accepted abstracts will be posted to the workshop website.

Note: Participants may also be interested in the workshop on “Information-based approaches to linguistics” to be held the following weekend (July 16-17). See for more details.


Matt Goldrick
Joe Pater
Meghan Sumner



Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Northwestern University

The Department of Linguistics at Northwestern University invites applications for a full-time non-renewable Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship funded through a grant to the University from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The fellowship is for a period of two academic years, beginning September 1, 2010. In accordance with the fellowship guidelines, all requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed prior to the start of the fellowship period. We are seeking recent Ph.D.s in any subfield of linguistics who have analyzed primary data (e.g., experimental data, field data, or natural language corpora) in order to address theoretical issues.

Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications. The position also provides funds for computer facilities and professional travel. Mellon postdoctoral fellows are expected to participate fully in Northwestern’s interdisciplinary research environment, teach a one-quarter lecture course and a one-quarter seminar per year, and present one colloquium per year.

For fullest consideration, candidates should ensure that their application arrives in the Department before December 1, 2009. APPLICATIONS BY E-MAIL WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. The application should include the candidate’s CV (indicating an e-mail address), statements of research and teaching interests, teaching evaluations (if available), and reprints or other written work. (Finalists will be asked to submit a copy of the dissertation, or completed portions thereof, at a later date; it is not necessary to do so at this time.) Candidates should arrange to have 3-4 letters of reference sent directly to the search committee by the application deadline; if possible, one of the letters should specifically address the applicant’s teaching qualifications.

Send all materials to:
Mellon Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
Northwestern University
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-4090
(Tel: 847-491-7020, Fax: 847-491-3770)

E-mail inquiries should be directed to The web page for the Department is:

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer, and applications from minority and women candidates are especially welcome. The fellowship is open to non-US citizens, as long as the necessary permit to work in the US is in hand prior to September 1, 2010.

Phonetics/Phonology Job at Brown University

From Sheila Blumstein:

The Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and the Department of Psychology announce that we will seek to fill four positions in language and linguistics over the next three years. Here we invite applications for an open-rank position in Phonetics/Phonology beginning July 1, 2010. Research focus is open, but we especially value programs of research that cross traditional boundaries of topics and methodology, including theoretical approaches. Interests in cross-linguistic and/or developmental research are highly desirable. The individual filling this position must be able to teach an introductory phonology course as well as a course in experimental phonetics. Additional positions that we will be hiring include a current search in (a) syntactic/semantic/pragmatic language processing, and two others tentatively in the areas of (b) lexical representation and processing, morphology, and/or word formation; and (c) computational modeling, cognitive neuroscience, and/or biology of language. Successful candidates are expected to have (1) a track record of excellence in research, (2) a well-specified research plan, and (3) a readiness to contribute to undergraduate and graduate teaching and mentoring. Brown has a highly interdisciplinary research environment in the study of mind, brain, behavior, and language and is establishing an integrated Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, effective July 2010. Plans to house the department in a newly renovated state-of-the-art building in the heart of campus are well under way. Curriculum vitae, reprints and preprints of publications, statements of research and teaching interests (one page each), and three letters of reference (for junior applicants) or names of five referees (for senior applicants) should be submitted on-line as PDFs to, or else by mail to Phonetics/Phonology Search Committee, Department of Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences, Box 1978, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912 USA. Applications received by January 5, 2010 are assured of full review. All Ph.D. requirements must be completed before July 1, 2010. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply. Brown University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern Languages and Linguistics, Northwestern University

(apologies for cross-postings)

Pending final approval, the Department of Linguistics invites applications from scholars with expertise and research interests in any aspect of Middle Eastern languages and linguistics. We are seeking a Ph.D. in any subfield of linguistics or a related discipline who has analyzed primary data (e.g.,
experimental data, field data, or natural language corpora) in order to address theoretical issues with a focus on the languages of the Middle East, including but not limited to Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Persian. This is a tenure-eligible position at the rank of Assistant Professor, to begin in fall 2009. The Linguistics Department is participating in a multi-departmental search; thus there is the opportunity for a joint hire with another department.

Applicants should submit a curriculum vita, a letter describing research and teaching interests, two writing samples, and three letters of reference. Review of applications will begin on October 15th, 2008.

E-mail inquiries should be directed to

The web page for the Department is:

Please send all materials to:

Middle East Faculty Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
Northwestern University
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-4090
(Tel: 847-491-7020, Fax: 847-491-3770)

Letters of reference can be sent electronically (to the email above), or by mail (to the mailing address above) by October 15, 2008.

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer, and applications from minority and women candidates are especially welcome.

How do you 'fix' an illegal cluster? (and why?)

I’ve been reading a lot about the ‘psychological reality’ of phonotactic constraints lately.   Something that’s puzzling me is the diversity of on-line repair strategies for constraint violations.  In particular, for phontactically illegal clusters, sometimes epenthesis is observed (e.g., Japanese listeners perceive ebzo as ebuzo; Dupoux and colleagues), and other times consonants are altered (e.g., /dl/->/gl/ for French speakers; Halle and colleagues).

My question is why such diversity is observed–that is, what triggers the different repair strategies.  N.B. I’m not expecting a single strategy to be used; I will place my hand on the good book (P&S 1993) and swear an oath to “homogeneity of target, heterogeneity of process.”

In a recent paper, Kabak + Idsardi argued that perceptual epenthesis is driven by syllable structure constraints, not by consonantal contact.  So, for a cluster C1C2, it is the ill-formedness of C1 in coda that drives epenthesis, not the contact of C1.C2.  In fact, they argue (based on confusion data) that no epenthesis occurs when there’s simply a syllable contact violation (*C1.C2).
This accounts for their data as well as the Dupoux et al. results; however in many other cases a “contact” violation does trigger ‘epenthesis.’  In production, Lisa Davidson’s shown that onset clusters violating English phonotactic constraints are repaired not by changing the consonants but by altering the temporal relationship of the gestures (not true epenthesis, which is why I used the scare quotes above).  Perhaps more directly comparable to K+I, Berent et al. have shown perceptual epenthesis (i.e., confusions between lbif and lebif).

And of course epenthesis is not the only way to fix clusters.  Lots of other studies have shown perceptual confusions between featurally similar clusters (e.g., */dl/-/gl/)–e.g., Moreton in English.

Any thoughts on this? What’s driving the heterogeneity of processes?

Report: Phonology at the Cognitive Science Society

Since not many linguists tend to frequent it, I thought I’d share some interesting stuff from the latest Cognitive Science Society conference.

Although the society is not well-known for its friendliness to linguists (esp. with its high registration fees), at this year’s meeting Paul Smolensky was awarded the field’s highest distinction (the Rumelhart Prize). There were also several posters on phonology (two from Hopkins):

  • Sara Finley (JHU) presented an interesting poster detailing on OT analysis of morphologically-conditioned vowel harmony (abstract link; a more detailed handout is here). Unfortunately, the data I found most interesting are not mentioned in either document. Apparently, the Korean morphologically-conditioned harmony process violates the structure-preserving generalization that vowels are neutral only when harmonizing would create a vowel outside of the inventory. She also has some data from a Spanish dialect (suggesting the complementary case, where morphologically-conditioned harmony creates vowels that are otherwise absent from the inventory.
  • Adam Wayment (JHU) presented a poster on getting harmony networks (a type of connectionist network implementing a ‘soft’ version of OT) to learn basic syllable structure constraints (abstract). I can’t say I really had enough time to grasp the details of this.
  • Brent Vander Wyk and James McClelland (CMU) presented a poster detailing work that they attempted to model the frequency distribution of English rhymes using a grammar with numerically weighted constraints. They postulated a set of constraints, loosely inspired by articulatory considerations, and used linear regression to assign weights to the constraints. The fit they got was ok, but not shockingly impressive.

In sum, the conference’s connections to linguistics, and phonology in particular, are still rather weak. It’s my hope that Smolensky’s prize award will help improve this situation.