Inducing nonlocal constraints from baseline phonotactics

  • Maria GouskovaEmail author
  • Gillian Gallagher


Nonlocal phonological patterns such as vowel harmony and long-distance consonant assimilation and dissimilation motivate representations that include only the interacting segments—projections. We present an implemented computational learner that induces projections based on phonotactic properties of a language that are observable without nonlocal representations. The learner builds on the base grammar induced by the MaxEnt Phonotactic Learner (Hayes and Wilson 2008). Our model searches this baseline grammar for constraints that suggest nonlocal interactions, capitalizing on the observations that (a) nonlocal interactions can be seen in trigrams if the language has simple syllable structure, and (b) nonlocally interacting segments define a natural class. We show that this model finds nonlocal restrictions on laryngeal consonants in corpora of Quechua and Aymara, and vowel co-occurrence restrictions in Shona.


Phonology Phonotactics Computational modeling Inductive learning Learnability Consonant harmony Consonant dissimilation Vowel harmony Nonlocal phonology Corpus phonology Quechua Aymara Shona 



For helpful feedback, we would like to thank Arto Anttila and the anonymous reviewers of NLLT, as well as Maddie Gilbert, Juliet Stanton, Ildi Emese Szabó, Sora Heng Yin, Jon Rawski, audiences at OCP 2018 in London, UMass Amherst, Stony Brook, and the Phonology Winter School in Israel. Finally, we would like to thank Daniel Ridings for making the ALLEX corpus wordlist available to us, and Colin Wilson for sharing the code for the gain-based MaxEnt Phonotactic Learner, as well as detailed feedback on related work. This research was supported in part by NSF BCS-1724753 to the authors.


  1. Adriaans, Frans, and René Kager. 2010. Adding generalization to statistical learning: The induction of phonotactics from continuous speech. Journal of Memory and Language 62: 311–331. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albright, Adam. 2002. The identification of bases in morphological paradigms. PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles. Google Scholar
  3. Albright, Adam, and Bruce Hayes. 2003. Rules vs. analogy in English past tenses: A computational/experimental study. Cognition 90 (2): 119–161. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Albright, Adam, and Bruce Hayes. 2006. Modeling productivity with the Gradual Learning Algorithm: The problem of accidentally exceptionless generalizations. In Gradience in grammar: Generative perspectives, eds. Gisbert Fanselow, Caroline Fery, Matthias Schlesewsky, and Ralf Vogel, 185–204. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Allen, Blake, and Michael Becker. 2015. Learning alternations from surface forms with sublexical phonology. Ms., UBC and Stony Brook.
  6. Becker, Michael, and Maria Gouskova. 2016. Source-oriented generalizations as grammar inference in Russian vowel deletion. Linguistic Inquiry 47 (3): 391–425. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker, Michael, Nihan Ketrez, and Andrew Nevins. 2011. The surfeit of the stimulus: Analytic biases filter lexical statistics in Turkish devoicing neutralization. Language 87 (1): 84–125. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beckman, Jill. 1997. Positional faithfulness, positional neutralization, and Shona vowel harmony. Phonology 14 (1): 1–46. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beckman, Jill. 1998. Positional faithfulness. New York: Routledge. Google Scholar
  10. Bennett, William G. 2015. Assimilation, dissimilation, and surface correspondence in Sundanese. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 33 (2): 371–415. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berent, Iris, Colin Wilson, Gary Marcus, and Doug Bemis. 2012. On the role of variables in phonology: Remarks on Hayes and Wilson (2008). Linguistic Inquiry 43 (1): 97–119. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Berkley, Deborah. 2000. Gradient OCP effects. PhD diss., Northwestern University. Google Scholar
  13. Berkson, Kelly Harper. 2013. Optionality and locality: Evidence from Navajo sibilant harmony. Laboratory Phonology 4 (2): 287–337. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Blust, Robert. 2012. One mark per word? Some patterns of dissimilation in Austronesian and Australian languages. Phonology 29 (3): 355–381. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chimhundu, Herbert. 1996. Duramazwi reChiShona. Harare: College Press Publishing Ltd. Google Scholar
  16. Chimhundu, Herbert, Oddrun Grønvik, Christian Emil Smith Ore, and Daniel Ridings. 1996. The African Languages Lexicon project (ALLEX). Available at Accessed 12 February 2019.
  17. Coetzee, Andries W., and Joe Pater. 2008. Weighted constraints and gradient restrictions on place co-occurrence in Muna and Arabic. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 26 (2): 289–337. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cohn, Abigail. 1992. The consequences of dissimilation in Sundanese. Phonology 9: 199–220. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Colavin, Rebecca S, Roger Levy, and Sharon Rose. 2010. Modeling OCP-Place in Amharic with the Maximum Entropy phonotactic learner. In Chicago Linguistics Society (CLS) 46, Vol. 2, 27–41. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. Google Scholar
  20. Cox, Betty Ellen, Myra Adamson, and Muriel Teusink. 1998. Kinyarwanda-English dictionary. Falls Church: The APICS Educational and Research Foundation. Google Scholar
  21. De Lucca, Manuel. 1987. Diccionario Práctico Aymara-Español, Español-Aymara. La Paz: Editorial Los Amigos del Libro. Google Scholar
  22. Della Pietra, Stephen, Vincent Della Pietra, and John Lafferty. 1997. Inducing features of random fields. IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence 19 (4): 380–393. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Downing, Laura J, and Maxwell Kadenge. 2015. Prosodic stems in Zezuru Shona. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33 (3): 291–305. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fortune, George. 1980. Shona grammatical constructions, 2nd edn., Vol. 1. Harare: Mercury Press. Google Scholar
  25. Frisch, Stefan A., Janet B. Pierrehumbert, and Michael B. Broe. 2004. Similarity avoidance and the OCP. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 22 (1): 179–228. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Futrell, Richard, Adam Albright, Peter Graff, Edward Gibson, and Timothy J O’Donnell. 2015. A probabilistic autosegmental model of phonotactics. Ms., MIT. Google Scholar
  27. Gafos, Adamantios. 1999. The articulatory basis of locality in phonology. New York: Garland. Google Scholar
  28. Gallagher, Gillian. 2014. An identity bias in phonotactics: Evidence from Cochabamba Quechua. Laboratory Phonology 5 (3): 337–378. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gallagher, Gillian. 2015. Natural classes in cooccurrence constraints. Lingua 166: 80–98. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gallagher, Gillian. 2016. Asymmetries in the representation of categorical phonotactics. Language 92 (3): 557–590. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gallagher, Gillian, and Jessica Coon. 2008. Distinguishing total and partial identity: Evidence from Chol. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 27: 545–582. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goldsmith, John, and Jason Riggle. 2012. Information theoretic approaches to phonology: The case of Finnish vowel harmony. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 30 (3): 859–896. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Goldwater, Sharon, and Mark Johnson. 2003. Learning OT constraint rankings using a Maximum Entropy Model. In Stockholm Workshop on Variation within Optimality Theory, eds. Jennifer Spenader, Anders Eriksson, and Östen Dahl, 111–120. Stockholm: Stockholm University. Google Scholar
  34. Gouskova, Maria, and Michael Becker. 2013. Nonce words show that Russian yer alternations are governed by the grammar. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 31 (3): 735–765. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gouskova, Maria, Sofya Kasyanenko, and Luiza Newlin-Łukowicz. 2015. Selectional restrictions as phonotactics over sublexicons. Lingua 167: 41–81. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hannan, Michael. 1974. Standard Shona dictionary. Harare: College Press in conjunction with the Literature Bureau. Google Scholar
  37. Hansson, Gunnar Olafur. 2001. Theoretical and typological issues in consonant harmony. PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley. Google Scholar
  38. Hardman, Martha James. 2001. Aymara. München: Lincom Europa. Google Scholar
  39. Hayes, Bruce, and James White. 2013. Phonological naturalness and phonotactic learning. Linguistic Inquiry 44 (1): 45–75. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hayes, Bruce, and Colin Wilson. 2008. A Maximum Entropy Model of Phonotactics and Phonotactic Learning. Linguistic Inquiry 39 (3): 379–440. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hayes, Bruce, Kie Zuraw, Péter Siptár, and Zsuzsa Cziráky Londe. 2009. Natural and unnatural constraints in Hungarian vowel harmony. Language 85 (4): 822–863. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Heinz, Jeffrey. 2010. Learning long-distance phonotactics. Linguistic Inquiry 41 (4): 623–661. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jardine, Adam. 2015. Learning tiers for long-distance phonotactics. In Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA) 6. Google Scholar
  44. Jardine, Adam, and Jeffrey Heinz. 2016. Learning tier-based strictly 2-local languages. Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics 4: 87–98. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kastner, Itamar, and Frans Adriaans. 2017. Linguistic constraints on statistical word segmentation: The role of consonants in Arabic and English. Cognitive Science 2 (S2): 494–518. Google Scholar
  46. Kimper, Wendell. 2011. Competing triggers: Transparency and opacity in vowel harmony. PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Google Scholar
  47. Kochetov, Alexei, and Milica Radisic. 2009. Latent consonant harmony in Russian: Experimental evidence for agreement by correspondence. In Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics (FASL) 17, eds. Maria Babyonyshev, Darya Kavitskaya, and Jodi Reich, 111–130. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications. Google Scholar
  48. MacEachern, Margaret. 1997. Laryngeal cooccurrence restrictions. PhD diss., UCLA, Los Angeles. Google Scholar
  49. Maddieson, Ian. 1990. Shona velarization: Complex consonants or complex onsets? UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics 74: 16–34. Google Scholar
  50. McCarthy, John J. 1986. OCP Effects: Gemination and antigemination. Linguistic Inquiry 17 (2): 207–263. Google Scholar
  51. McCarthy, John J. 1988. Feature geometry and dependency: A review. Phonetica 43: 84–108. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McCarthy, John J. 1989. Linear order in phonological representation. Linguistic Inquiry 20: 71–99. Google Scholar
  53. McCarthy, John J. 1994. The phonetics and phonology of Semitic pharyngeals. In Phonological structure and phonetic form: Papers in laboratory phonology 3, ed. Patricia Keating, 191–233. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mester, Armin. 1986. Studies in tier structure. PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Published 1988 in Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics series. New York: Garland. Google Scholar
  55. Mudzingwa, Calisto. 2010. Shona morphophonemics: Repair strategies in Karanga and Zezuru. PhD diss., University of British Columbia. Google Scholar
  56. Myers, Scott. 1987. Tone and the structure of words in Shona. PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Google Scholar
  57. Padgett, Jaye. 1991. Stricture in feature geometry. PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Google Scholar
  58. Rose, Sharon, and Rachel Walker. 2004. A typology of consonant agreement as correspondence. Language 80 (3): 475–532. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Siptár, Péter, and Miklós Törkenczy. 2000. The phonology of Hungarian. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  60. Stanton, Juliet. 2016. Learnability shapes typology: the case of the midpoint pathology. Language 92 (4): 753–791. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stanton, Juliet. 2017a. Constraints on the distribution of nasal-stop sequences: An argument for contrast. PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Google Scholar
  62. Stanton, Juliet. 2017b. Latin –alis/–aris and segmental blocking in dissimilation. In 2016 annual meeting on phonology, eds. Karen Jesney, Charlie O’Hara, Caitlin Smith, and Rachel Walker. Google Scholar
  63. Suzuki, Keiichiro. 1998. A typological investigation of dissimilation. PhD diss., University of Arizona. Google Scholar
  64. Svantesson, Jan-Olof, Anna Tsendina, Anastasia Karlsson, and Vivan Franzén. 2005. The phonology of Mongolian. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  65. Trubetzkoy, N. S. 1939. Grundzuge der Phonologie. Prague: Travaux du cercle linguistique de Prague 7. Google Scholar
  66. Van Kampen, Anja, Güliz Parmaksiz, Ruben van de Vijver, and Barbara Höhle. 2008. Metrical and statistical cues for word segmentation: The use of vowel harmony and word stress as cues to word boundaries by 6- and 9-month-old Turkish learners. In Language acquisition and development: Proceedings of GALA 2007, Vol. 2007, 313–324. Google Scholar
  67. Walker, Rachel. 2001. Round licensing, harmony, and bisyllabic triggers in Altaic. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 19 (4): 827–878. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Walker, Rachel, Dani Byrd, and Fidèle Mpiranya. 2008. An articulatory view of Kinyarwanda coronal harmony. Phonology 25 (03): 499–535. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wilson, Colin, and Gillian Gallagher. 2018. Constraint complexity in surface-based phonotactics: A case study of South Bolivian Quechua. Linguistic Inquiry 49 (3): 610–623. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wilson, Colin, and Marieke Obdeyn. 2009. Simplifying subsidiary theory: Statistical evidence from Arabic, Muna, Shona, and Wargamay. Ms., Johns Hopkins. Google Scholar
  71. Zuraw, Kie. 2002. Aggressive reduplication. Phonology 19 (03): 395–439. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zuraw, Kie, and Bruce Hayes. 2017. Intersecting constraint families: an argument for Harmonic Grammar. Language 93 (3): 497–548. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zuraw, Kie, and Yu-An Lu. 2009. Diverse repairs for multiple labial consonants. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 27 (1): 197–224. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations