Reading Group on Phonetics and Phonology

Welcome to the MIT Phonology Circle! We are a student-run reading group on phonetics and phonology. We offer an informal platform for presenters interested in these topics to:

  • Lead a discussion of a new or old paper you are curious about (you can contact us for ideas!)
  • Present work in progress (including experimental designs that you’d like to discuss)
  • Introduce phonological puzzles with or without a solution
  • Provide tutorials about particular research tools (experimental platforms, acoustic analysis software, articulatory imaging technology)
  • Give practice talks

This fall, we will be meeting on Wednesdays, 5pm-6:30pm in room 32-D831 (unless announced otherwise).

If you are interested in joining our mailing list, please join here.  

If you would like to present in one of the meetings, please email Daniel ( or Chris (

Schedule Fall 2018 - Upcoming Presentations

12/5 Julian Kirkeby Lysvik (University of Oslo / MIT)
Word-Final Voicing in an Artificial Language Learning Experiment 2.0
The purpose of this talk is to discuss the design of an ALL experiment looking for biases in the acquisition of word-final voicing. Two previous experiments showed different and surprising results. Namely 1) an apparent asymmetry in a Production task and a Forced-Choice task and 2) a preference for final voicing over final devoicing. I will discuss these results (and those of related experiments), alternative interpretations of them, and outline an experiment designed to improve on these two previous experiments. This presentation outlines work-in-progress.
12/12 Lee Bickmore (University at Albany) & Winfred Mkochi (University of Malawi)
Segmental and Tonal Absolute Neutralization in CiTonga
CiTonga, an under-described Malawian Bantu language, exhibits a complex array of stem tone patterns. We show that these patterns can be accounted for by assuming that in addition to various lexical High tones present underlyingly, melodic (grammatical) High tones are also added. These target the stem-initial TBU if it is free, otherwise the final one. Two productive tonal processes are key to understanding the surface tones: Tone Doubling, which spreads an underlying H to the following mora, and Phrase-final Left Shift, which shifts a H off a phrase-final mora to the phrase-penultimate one. These two processes create a variety of tonal configurations, many of which violate the Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP). We show that in some cases these violations simply remain, while in other cases they are repaired. Of interest is the fact that four different repair strategies are used depending on 1) whether one or both Hs are multiply linked and 2) the domain in which the OCP violation is found (e.g. within the stem, across the stem, or across words). Finally, we present two TAMs, the Subjunctive and Imperative, which seem to have anomalous surface tone patterns, given the productive rules which have been motivated to that point. To account for these we present and discuss an abstract analysis which involves an absolute neutralization. For the subjunctive, we propose that even though the Subject Prefixes uniformly surface as Low, they must be set up as High in order to trigger the various processes which directly account for the surface stem tone patterns, even though this H is not ultimately realized. For the imperative, a segmental prefix is posited in order to trigger the appropriate processes, which must ultimately be deleted (i.e. both the mora and tone of the prefix). We conclude by briefly comparing this analysis to several alternatives.