Estimating historical probabilities of natural and unnatural processes


This paper presents a technique for estimating the influences of channel bias on phonological typology. The technique, based on statistical bootstrapping, enables the estimation of historical probability, the probability that a synchronic alternation arises based on two diachronic factors: the number of sound changes required for an alternation to arise and their respective probabilities. I estimate historical probabilities of six attested and unattested alternations targeting the feature [voice], compare historical probabilities of these alternations, perform inferential statistics on the comparison and, to evaluate the performance of the channel bias approach, compare outputs of the diachronic model against the independently observed synchronic typology. The technique also identifies mismatches between the typological predictions of the analytic bias and channel bias approaches. By comparing these mismatches with the observed typology, this paper attempts to quantitatively evaluate the distinct contributions of the two influences on typology in a set of alternations targeting the feature [voice].

Publication date: 
March 1, 2021
Publication type: 
Recent Publication
Beguš, G. (2020). Estimating historical probabilities of natural and unnatural processes. Phonology, 37(4), 515-549. doi:10.1017/S0952675720000263