Acquisition of Variation

Variation is a robust fact of all natural languages. This means that a child acquiring any language must learn which variation to ignore as insignificant to linguistic meaning (such as the pitch differences between male and female speakers) and which variation to adopt as part of her linguistic competence (such as the social and grammatical factors that influence her choice of saying running vs. runnin'). Understanding more about how children acquire these conditioning factors -- both through natural language studies and artificial language experiments -- will lead to a better understanding of the phonological variation that we see in languages and the change that phonology undergoes.

Artificial language experiments

My postdoctoral research in the Learning and Development Lab is aimed at providing an account of the acquisition of variable phonological input. Using the artificial language paradigm developed by Hudson Kam and Newport (2005, 2009), we test the acquisition of social and grammatical conditioning on phonological variation. Keep an eye on this space for our results!