The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics
[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 19, No. 1, pp.1-26
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Mar 2019
Received 11 Feb 2019 Revised 10 Mar 2019 Accepted 19 Mar 2019

A Maximum-Entropy Grammar of Phonotactics for the TRAP-BATH Vowel Distribution

Cho, Hyesun
Professor, Dankook University Department of Education Graduate School of Education 152, Jukjeon-ro, Suji-gu, Yongin-si Gyeonggi-do, Korea, Tel: 031) 8005-3968


Cho, Hyesun. 2019. A maximum-entropy grammar of phonotactics for the TRAP-BATH vowel distribution. Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics 19-1, 1-26. This study presents a probabilistic phonotactic grammar for the distribution of the TRAP and BATH vowels ([æ] and [ɑ:]). Patterns of variation exist since the Middle English [a] lengthening did not take place in all the eligible words satisfying the structural description (voiceless fricatives and nasal-consonant clusters). As a result, the vowel varies even in nearly-identical phonological environment (brass [ɑ:] vs. crass [æ]). This paper presents a probabilistic maximum-entropy grammar of phonotactics for the vowel distribution and variation. The learning simulation was run using the UCLA Phonotactics Learner (Hayes and Wilson 2008). The obtained grammar in the first simulation captured phonotactic patterns that are relatively strong and consistent, describing the phonotactic environments where one of the vowels never occur. To capture the patterns of variation, the second simulation was run, which resulted in a phonotactic grammar that assigns different probabilities for words that have variable vowels in the same phonological context. The results suggest that the probabilistic grammar that defines the probability distribution over the phonological forms is adequate for modeling variable phonotactic distribution which involves the gradient well-formedness of surface forms.


phonotactics, maximum entropy, probabilistic grammar, TRAP, BATH, variation, frequency, distribution


  • Albright, A., A. Andrade and B. Hayes. 2001. Segmental environments of Spanish diphthongization. In A. Albright and T. Cho, eds., UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics 7: Papers in Phonology 5, 117-151. LA.: UCLA.
  • Albright, A. and B. Hayes. 2003. Rules vs. analogy in English past tenses: A computational/experimental study. Cognition 90, 119-161. []
  • Anttila, A. 1997. Deriving variation from grammar. In F. Hinskens, R. van Hout and L. Wetzels, eds., Variation, Change, and Phonological Theory, 35-68. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. []
  • Barber, C. 1997. Early Modern English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Benua, L. 1995. Identity effects in morphological truncation. In J. Beckman, L. Walsh Dickey and S. Urbanczyk, eds., Papers in Optimality Theory: University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguistics 18, 77-136. Amherst, Mass.: Graduate Linguistic Association.
  • Berkley, D. 2000. Gradient Obligatory Contour Principle Effects. Doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University.
  • Bybee, J. L. 2001. Phonology and Language Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. []
  • Carr, P. 2013. English Phonetics and Phonology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Cho, H. 2012. Statistical learning of Korean phonotactics. Studies in Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology 18(2), 339-370. []
  • Clements, G. N. and E. Hume. 1995. The internal organization of speech sounds. In J. Goldsmith, ed., The Handbook of Phonological Theory, 245-306. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Coetzee, A. W. and S. Kawahara. 2013. Frequency biases in phonological variation. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 31(1), 47-89. []
  • Coetzee, A. W. and J. Pater. 2008. Weighted constraints and gradient restrictions on place co-occurrence in Muna and Arabic. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 26, 289-337. []
  • Coetzee, A. W. and J. Pater. 2011. The place of variation in phonological theory. In J. Goldsmith, J. Riggle, and A. Yu, eds., Handbook of phonological theory: 2nd Edition, 401-434. Cambridge: Blackwell []
  • Frisch, S., J. Pierrehumbert and M. Broe. 2004. Similarity avoidance and the OCP. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 22, 179-228. []
  • Gussmann, E. 2002. Domains and phonological regularities. In E. gussmann, ed., Phonology: Analysis and Theory, 45-65. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. []
  • Gupta, A. F. 2005. Baths and becks: A report on two prominent dialectal variables in England, English Today 81(21), 21-27. []
  • Halle, M. 1995. Feature geometry and feature spreading. Linguistic Inquiry 26, 1-46.
  • Hayes, B. and Z. C. Londe. 2006. Stochastic phonological knowledge: The case of Hungarian vowel harmony. Phonology 23, 59-104. []
  • Hayes, B. and C. Wilson. 2008. A maximum entropy model of phonotactics and phonotactic learning. Linguistic Inquiry 39(3), 379-440. []
  • Jun, J. 2010. Stem-final obstruent variation in Korean. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 19(2), 137-179. []
  • Kager, R. 1999. Optimality Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. []
  • Kager, R. and J. Pater. 2012. Phonotactics as phonology: Knowledge of a complex restriction in Dutch. Phonology 29(1), 81-111. []
  • Kahn, D. 1976. Syllable-Based Generalizations in English Phonology. Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA, USA.
  • Kawahara, O., H. Ono and K. Sudo. 2006. Consonant co-occurrence restrictions in Yamato Japanese. Japanese/Korean Linguistics 14, 27-38.
  • Kenstowicz, M. 1994. Phonology in Generative Grammar. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Kiparsky, P. 1993. An OT perspective on phonological variation. Ms. Stanford University. Paper presented at the Rutgers Optimality Workshop. October, 1993. Retrieved from
  • Kohavi, R. 1995. A study of cross-validation and bootstrap for accuracy estimation and model selection. In Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann, 2(12), 1138-1143.
  • Labov, W. 1969. Contraction, deletion, and inherent variability of the English copula. Language 45, 715-762. []
  • McCarthy, J. 1986. OCP Effects: Gemination and antigemination. Linguistic Inquiry 17, 207-63.
  • Migglestone, L. 1995. Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol. Oxford: Claredon Press.
  • Oh, Y-.L. and S.-H. Hong. 2013. A noisy harmonic grammar analysis of gradient OCP effects in English syllables. Studies in Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology 19(3), 433-455. []
  • Pierrehumbert, J. 1994. Syllable structure and word structure: A study of triconsonantal clusters in Englis. In P. Keating, ed., Phonological Structure and Phonetic Form: Papers in Laboratory Phonology III, 168-188. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. []
  • R Core Team. 2018. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL
  • Robinson, T., J. Fransen, D. Pye, J. Foote and S. Renals. 1995. WSJCAMO: A British English Speech Corpus for large vocabulary continuous speech recognition. In Proceedings of ICASSP (International Conference on Acuoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing) (Detroit, MI), 81-85. []
  • Robinson, T. 1995. British English Example Pronunciation Dictionary (BEEP). Retrieved from
  • Sholes, R. 1966. Phonotactic Grammaticality. The Hague: Mouton. []
  • Taylor, B. 2011. Why not “Spop”? OCP and prominent position effects on the English lexicon. In Proceedings of the GMU Working Papers in Linguistics 8. Retrieved from
  • Wells, J. C. 1982. Accents of English, Vols. I-III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. []