February 23, 2016

Guest speaker: Karthik Durvasula (Michigan State University)

We are pleased to welcome Karthik Durvasula, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, to our department for a guest talk on Friday, February 26. Karthik is a phonologist, primarily interested in features and other forms of phonological representation, especially from the standpoint of experimental investigation (perception-based or neurolinguistic) and across languages. His talk will be taking place in SS 560A at 3:00 PM on Friday: "Probing phonological knowledge in speech perception through auditory illusions." A reception will follow in the department lounge.

Native speakers perceive illusory vowels when presented with sound sequences that do not respect the phonotactic constraints of their language (Dehaene-Lambertz et al., 2000; Dupoux et al., 1999; Kabak and Idsardi, 2007; inter alia). Such perceptual illusions have been claimed to be driven purely by surface phonotactics and phonetic characteristics of segments (Davidson and Shaw, 2012; Dupoux et al., 2011). In this talk, I will argue that it is also crucially modulated by abstract phonological knowledge.

Inspired by Bayesian models of speech perception (Feldman and Griffiths, 2007; Sonderegger and Yu, 2010), I suggest that the task of the listener in speech perception is to identify the target underlying representations. Since underlying representations are abstractions that depend on the phonology of the language, the view predicts the recruitment of phonological knowledge, beyond surface-phonotactics, during speech perception. Consistent with this expectation, I will present results from research on perceptual illusions that show that knowledge of both phonological alternations and higher-level prosodic structure is utilized during speech perception.

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