A computational approach to the phonology of connected speech
This thesis attempts to answer the question "How do we store and retrieve linguistic information?", and to show how this is intimately related to the question of connected speech phonology. The main discussion begins in Chapter One with a non-linguistic introduction to the problem of looking things up, and considers in particular the hashtable and its properties. The theme is developed directly in the latter part of the chapter, and further in Chapter Two, where it is proposed not only that the hashtable is the mechanism actually used by the language faculty, but also that phonology is that mechanism. Chapter Two develops in detail a radically new theory of phonology based on this hypothesis, and examines at length its ramifications. As a foundation for understanding how the phonological and the conceptual-semantic forms of utterances are related, we undertake a detailed study of the relationship between "form" and "meaning" in Chapter Three. We propose a general algorithm, which we claim is a real mechanism driving the acquisition of morphological knowledge, that can abstract and generalise these sorts of morphological relationships. We examine its computational properties, which are surprisingly favourable, and provide a detailed quasi-experimental case-study. By Chapter Four, all the theoretical necessities for describing and ex- plaining what are traditionally believed to be phonological processes operating at the level of the sentence have been introduced. The chapter is used to show how the pieces of Chapters One, Two and Three fit together to tell this story. The chapter also offers some well-motivated speculation on new lines research suggested by some of the computational results obtained throughout this work, and provides a meta-level framework for the future development of a full-scale theory of syntactic function and its acquisition.