The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics

Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 19 , No. 1

[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 1-26
Abbreviation: KASELL
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.

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

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