Probabilistic Typology: Deep Generative Models of Vowel Inventories

Ryan Cotterell & Jason Eisner
Linguistic typology studies the range of structures present in human language. The main goal of the field is to discover which sets of possible phenomena are universal, and which are merely frequent. For ex- ample, all languages have vowels, while most—but not all—languages have an [u] sound. In this paper we present the first probabilistic treatment of a basic question in phonological typology: What makes a natural vowel inventory? We introduce a se- ries of...
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