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Linguistics Colloquium Talk – Idsardi
February 4, 2019 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Perspectives on serial order from language and birdsong
William J. Idsardi
University of Maryland
The “problem of serial order” identified by Lashley (1951) has presented an on-going challenge to cognitive science, down to the present day. Various versions of associative chaining, positional coding, activation coding, context-sensitive coding and other schemes have been proposed to explain both domain specific (e.g. speech) and domain general abilities in humans and animals. In this talk I will review some recent experiments with songbirds that separate species that demonstrate perceptual sensitivity to serial order (budgerigars) from those that do not (zebra finch). I will then make some comparisons between computational models of phonotactics (subregular strictly piecewise, Heinz & Rogers 2010), speech perception (string kernels, TISK, Hannagan, Magnuson & Grainger 2013) and visual word recognition (open bigrams, Grainger & Whitney 2004), and identify a general form shared by such models. These findings undermine the standard view that sequences are essentially string-like, and suggest some revisions to the Phonological Continuity Hypothesis proposed by Fitch (2018).