Constraints on the coordination of articulatory gestures

Louis Goldstein, Yale University

April 7, 1998


Abstract

Within the framework of Articulatory Phonology (e.g., Browman & Goldstein, 1992), the primitive units of phonological structure are hypothesized to be articulatory gestures. Gestures are abstract characterizations of vocal tract constriction actions and are formalized using concepts that have proven useful in modeling other kinds of actions: coordinative structures and dynamical systems. Previous work to be summarized in this talk demonstrated how a variety of superficially unrelated phonetic and phonological alternations could result from general principles of variation in gestural patterning: changes in the magnitudes of individual gestures, and changes in temporal overlap of gestures. Recent research (e.g., Byrd, 1996), has shown that pairs of gestures differ considerably in the extent to which they exhibit variability of in temporal overlap. It is possible to capture this by explicitly representing the "bonding" strength of the coordination relations (or coordination constraints) between pairs of gestures. This talk will show how certain properties of syllable structure in English fall out of the simultaneous satisfaction of competing coordination constraints. In addition, a self-organization approach to the problem of how patterns of gestural bonding arise will be presented. Application of this approach to phonological development will be discussed. In particular, a number of trends in the (apparent) order of emergence of consonants in infants' early words can be explained by hypothesizing that at first, infants are producing constriction actions with no systematic coordination and that constraints on intergestural coordination among actions develop gradually.

References:
Browman, C. & Goldstein, L. (1992) Articulatory phonology: an overview. Phonetica, 49, 155-80.
Byrd, D. (1996). Influences on articulatory timing in consonant sequences. Journal of Phonetics, 24, 209-244.