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Academic Paper


Title: Variation in the input: a case study of manner class frequencies
Author: Robert Daland
Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: What are the sources of variation in the input, and how much do they matter for language acquisition? This study examines frequency variation in manner-of-articulation classes in child and adult input. The null hypothesis is that segmental frequency distributions of language varieties are unigram (modelable by stationary, ergodic processes), and that languages are unitary (modelable as a single language variety). Experiment I showed that English segments are not unigram; they exhibit a ‘bursty’ distribution in which the local frequency varies more than expected by chance alone. Experiment II showed the English segments are approximately unitary: the natural background variation in segmental frequencies that arises within a single language variety is much larger than numerical differences across varieties. Variation in segmental frequencies seems to be driven by variation in discourse topic; topic-associated words cause bursts/lulls in local segmental frequencies. The article concludes with some methodological recommendations for comparing language samples.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 40, Issue 5, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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