The Influence of Context on the Learning of Metrical Stress Systems Using Finite-State Machines

Cesko Voeten*, Menno van Zaanen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Languages vary in the way stress is assigned to syllables within words. This article investigates the learnability of stress systems in a wide range of languages. The stress systems can be described using finite-state automata with symbols indicating levels of stress (primary, secondary, or no stress). Finite-state automata have been the focus of research in the area of grammatical inference for some time now. It has been shown that finite-state machines are learnable from examples using state-merging. One such approach, which aims to learn k-testable languages, has been applied to stress systems with some success. The family of k-testable languages has been shown to be efficiently learnable (in polynomial time). Here, we extend this approach to k, l-local languages by taking not only left context, but also right context, into account. We consider empirical results testing the performance of our learner using various amounts of context (corresponding to varying definitions of phonological locality). Our results show that our approach of learning stress patterns using state-merging is more reliant on left context than on right context. Additionally, some stress systems fail to be learned by our learner using either the left-context k-testable or the left-and-right-context k, l-local learning system. A more complex merging strategy, and hence grammar representation, is required for these stress systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-348
Number of pages20
JournalComputational Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018




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