On the role of variables in phonology: Remarks on Hayes and Wilson 2008

Iris Berent, Colin Wilson, Gary F. Marcus, Douglas K. Bemis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A computational model by Hayes and Wilson (2008) seemingly captures a diverse range of phonotactic phenomena without variables, contrasting with the presumptions of many formal theories. Here, we examine the plausibility of this approach by comparing generalizations of identity restrictions by this architecture and human learners. Whereas humans generalize identity restrictions broadly, to both native and nonnative phonemes, the original model and several related variants failed to generalize to nonnative phonemes. In contrast, a revised model equipped with variables more closely matches human behavior. These findings suggest that, like syntax, phonological grammars are endowed with algebraic relations among variables that support acrossthe-board generalizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-119
Number of pages23
JournalLinguistic Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Algebraic
  • Generalization
  • Hebrew phonology
  • Maxent
  • OCP
  • Variables

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'On the role of variables in phonology: Remarks on Hayes and Wilson 2008'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this