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Structure and Substance in Artificial-Phonology Learning, Part II: Substance

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Abstract

Artificial analogues of natural-language phonological patterns can often be learned in the lab from small amounts of training or exposure. The difficulty of a featurally-defined pattern has been hypothesized to be affected by two main factors, its formal structure (the abstract logical relationships between the defining features) and its phonetic substance (the concrete phonetic interpretation of the pattern). This paper, the second of a two-part series, reviews the experimental literature on phonetic substance, which is hypothesized to facilitate the acquisition of phonological patterns that resemble naturally-occurring phonetic patterns. The effects of phonetic substance on pattern learning turn out to be elusive and unreliable in comparison with the robust effects of formal complexity (reviewed in Part I). If natural-language acquisition is guided by the same inductive biases as are found in the lab, these results support a theory in which inductive bias shapes only the form, and channel bias shapes the content, of the sound patterns of the worlds languages.

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