The P* reading group will meet Tuesday, 16 January at 13:30 in room 002 (and on Zoom). Tommy will give a talk on ongoing research titled: Is major place consonant harmony a motor disorder? Below is an abstract:

What children say often does not match with what they hear. For example, Amahl (Smith 1973) hears [pʰʌ́dəɫ] but produces [pʰʌ́gəɫ]; Clara (Rose 2000) hears [kafe] but produces [pɵfɛ].

The phenomenon, in theory-neutral terminology, is a “mismatch”. In these mismatches, 2 consonants agree with each other in major place, across vowels, regressively, and non-iteratively.

The cause of these mismatches is extremely controversial. (Baker et al 2001) proposed a model of how the brain processes language; based on this model, there are at LEAST 3 possible causes:

  1. The child misperceives [pʰʌ́dəɫ] as [pʰʌ́gəɫ] (Goad 2021)
  2. The child deems [pʰʌ́dəɫ] as phonotactically illicit, and [pʰʌ́gəɫ] as licit (Rose 2000)
  3. The child accidentally produces [pʰʌ́d͡gəɫ], [pʰʌ́ɟəɫ], [pʰʌ́gəɫ] (or others) but intends to produce [pʰʌ́dəɫ] (Hale & Reiss 1999)

These 3 studies can evaluate the 3 causes respectively:

  1. An electrophysiological study on the perception of consonant major place before [ɫ] (Liu 2023, hopefully)
  2. A learnability study with an artificial language containing major place consonant harmony (Liu 2022)
  3. An ultrasound study on convert contrasts in harmonic forms (Gormley 2003)

In this talk, I will present my past and upcoming studies, which may shed light on whether major place consonant harmony is a motor disorder. If you have any ideas or questions, please do not hesitate to reach me at