Measuring phonological distances in a tonal language: an experimental and computational investigation with Cantonese
Youngah Do, Ryan Ka Yau Lai
October 2018
 

To explore how speakers measure phonological distances in tonal languages, we conducted distance judgement tests of word pairs from Cantonese speakers, then fit Bayesian multilevel models to predict the results from various distance metrics. We find that Hamming distances between segments based on multivalued features and tonal representations incorporating pitch contours, including pitch changes across syllables when applicable, consistently perform best. Moreover, onsets are consistently weighted heavier than codas and tones, although the importance of the nucleus varies between monosyllabic and disyllabic words. We discuss how the current results inform the understanding of phonotactic learning models of tonal languages.
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Reference: lingbuzz/004369
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keywords: phonological distances, computational phonology, bayesian modeling, tone, cantonese, phonology
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