Connor Mayer

Department of Linguistics
3125 Campbell Hall, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

Pronouns: he/him/his

Recent updates:

I'm a soon-to-be graduate of the PhD program in the Department of Linguistics at UCLA. My advisor was Bruce Hayes, and my committee members were Kie Zuraw, Tim Hunter, and Adam McCollum (Rutgers). In July 2021 I will be starting as an assistant professor in the Department of Language Science at The University of California, Irvine.

My research combines computation with a wide range of converging methodologies to explore questions of interest to phonetics and phonology. I focus on learning and learnability, particularly in questioning or supplementing notions of innateness in linguistic theory. The questions that guide much of my research are (a) the extent to which linguistic structure is learned vs. innate; (b) how innate biases shape the learning process; and (c) how we can better understand the source and nature of these biases. I view computation as a tool that can be used to complement empirical and theoretical methodologies, testing claims and providing new predictions. I have used such methodology to probe the role of distributional information in phonological learning, to investigate the ways in which the biomechanics and motor control of the vocal tract shape our speech systems, and to explore the interaction between acoustic cue weighting and vocabulary acquisition, among other topics.

I also work extensively on the Uyghur language (Turkic: China). My dissertation is a collection of related papers that approach the phenomenon of backness harmony in Uyghur using a range of methodologies, including acoustic study, large-scale corpus work, wug testing, elicitation, formal language theory, and phonological modeling. As a whole, my dissertation demonstrates that backness harmony in Uyghur consists of a productive phonological core with many lexicalized components that have emerged as the result of extensive borrowing and sound change. I relate these observations to theories of the mathematical complexity of phonological patterns, representations of opaque processes in the grammar, and phonetic biases on phonological learning. I have also performed descriptive research on this underdocumented language, including its intonation.