A model ofphonological development will be presented. The model is outlined within thetentative framework of ETLA, an Ecological Theory of Language Acquisition beingproposed by Stockholm University’s research group for early languageacquisition. It expands Lindblom’s pioneering work on emergent phonology byintroducing explicit ecological and interactional components in the process ofphonological development. In this context the infant’s early discovery of thelinguistic referential function is directly triggered by recurrent co-occurrencesof utterances and affordances of the ecological setting within which the infantinteracts with speakers of the ambient language. The model assumes no initiallinguistic knowledge. Its only underlying assumption is that recurrentco-occurrences of sensory information from different modalities are extremelysignificant, given that the probability of randomly drawing similar co-occurrencesof sensory representations from the huge multisensory space is vanishingly low.Departing from these general and non-linguistic assumptions, the model suggeststhat phonological structure of the ambient language can be inferred fromsituated IDS in the infant’s ecological setting. The model uses a hierarchicalprocess that initially singles out large chunks of utterances with potentialreferential function. By further recursive splitting of the initial referentialchunks into recurrent sub-chunks, the model incrementally converges towards theambient language’s phonological structure.
Thepresentation will try to demonstrate how the model can generate plausibleemergent phonological representations when applied to actual IDS and relevantecological settings for the adult-infant interaction. It will also be shown howthe inclusion of general aerodynamic and articulatory constraints further refinesthe realism of the phonological development predicted by the model.
Researchsupported by grants from The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (MILLE,K2003:0867), EU-NEST (CONTACT, project n. 5010), Knut and Alice WallenbergFoundation, (KAW 2005.0115) and Stockholm University.