Asymmetries in generalizing alternations to and from initial syllablesMichael Becker, Andrew Nevins, and Jonathan Levine Asymmetries in generalizing alternations to and from initial syllables. Language 88:2, pp. 231–268.
In the English lexicon, laryngeal alternations in the plural (e.g. leaf ~ leaves) impact monosyllables more than finally-stressed polysyllables. This is the opposite of what happens typologically, and would thereby run contrary to the predictions of initial syllable faithfulness. However, in a wug-test we found that monosyllables are impacted just as much as finally-stressed polysyllables—a "surfeit of the stimulus" effect, in which speakers fail to learn a statistical generalization present in the lexicon. We present two artificial grammar experiments in which English speakers indeed manifest the universal bias for protecting monosyllables, and initial syllables more generally. The conclusion, therefore, is that speakers can exhibit spontaneous learning that goes directly against the evidence offered by the ambient language, a result we attribute to formal and substantive biases in phonological acquisition.
Andrew Nevins, email@example.com
Jonathan Levine, firstname.lastname@example.org