Wendell Kimper at LEL seminar

Posted on February 10, 2020 by

This Tuesday, 11th of February 2020, we will have a seminar paper from LEL’s own Wendell Kimper. His talk is titled “Looking for Markedness (…in all the wrong places?)“. An abstract is below. The seminar will be in in SamAlex A115 at 4.15pm.

“The concept of markedness in phonological theory dates back to Roman Jakobson and the Prague School of structuralist linguistics, but its position with respect to synchronic grammar remains contested today.  The vast majority of phonological processes have plausible relationships to phonetic principles, and often have clear parallels in gradient phonetic effects.  Is this a result of the mechanisms of sound change, an integral component of the grammar, or a reflection of biases in learning?

In this talk, I’ll give an overview of some works in progress attempting to address this question by combining phonology, phonetics, and psycholinguistics to search for evidence of implicit knowledge of phonetic ‘naturalness’ in phonological cognition.  These include:

— An Event-Related Potentials (ERP) experiment investigating the time-course of processing phonotactic violations.  The design for this experiment builds on finding from previous behavioural studies (Becker et al., 2011; Hayes et al., 2009; Hayes and White, 2013), which found that violations of phonotactic restrictions that are phonetically ‘natural’ elicit more robust responses than those which are ‘unnatural’.  Do these represent different degrees of the same cognitive process, or different processes entirely?

— A study of phonotactic novelty in the names of alien characters in science fiction.  The oddity of the names themselves helps to contribute to the role of alien characters as the Other in the structure of the narrative, but what type of implicit knowledge are we relying on when we find these names to be appropriately alien?  Are we responding to departures from the phonotactic frequencies we expect based on the lexicon of English?  Or are we relying on implicit knowledge of markedness?

The talk will offer plenty of difficult questions, and very few answers..”


Featured image is of Wendell and Esperanza. If you want to know more about Esperanza, stay tuned, as Manchet is about to treat you to extravagant amounts of high quality animal content.