Kristine Yu of the University of Maryland/University of Massachussetts, Amherst will speak at the UCSD Linguistics Department Colloquium on November 7, 2011, at 2:00 pm in AP&M 4301.
It is an unremarkable matter of course but a remarkable miracle of
human cognition that children learning tonal languages learn maps from
the speech signal to the abstract phonological tone concepts of their
native language, which could be any tone language of the world. This
talk is on work towards a characterization of what it is that is being
learned---the class of possible maps from the speech signal to tonal
categories in natural language. By studying the structure of this
class of tonal maps, we can assess the learnability of the class under
a mathematically precise criterion for successful feasible learning.
Since the structure of tonal maps is conditioned on the phonetic space
in which they are defined, we present work on determining an
appropriate phonetic parameterization of the speech signal for the
domain of the tonal maps, using cross-linguistic experimental data
from Bole, Beijing Mandarin, Cantonese, and White Hmong. We also
present results from both human perception experiments and
computational modeling hinting at structure in tonal maps that would
make them feasibly learnable.