Eric Bakovic of UCSD will be giving a job talk titled “Ensuring the proper determination of identity: a model of possible constraints” (abstract below) this Friday, March 6 in the Linguistics department at 3:30 pm in ILC N400. All are welcome to attend.

“Ensuring the proper determination of identity: a model of possible constraints”

Some phonological patterns can be described as sufficient identity avoidance, where ‘sufficiently identical’ means ‘necessarily identical with respect to all but some specific feature(s)’. The first part of the talk addresses this question: why are specific features ignored for the purposes of determining sufficient identity? In previous work (Bakovic 2005, Bakovic & Kilpatrick 2006, Pajak & Bakovic 2010, Brooks et al. 2013ab), we have found that patterns of sufficient identity avoidance where a specific feature F is ignored also involve F-assimilation in the same contexts. Direct reference to sufficient identity is thus unnecessary: sufficient identity is indirectly avoided because F-assimilation would otherwise be expected, resulting in total identity. Avoiding sufficient identity without assimilation is the better option, as predicted by the minimal violation property of Optimality Theory. This analysis predicts rather than stipulates the features that will be ignored for the purposes of determining sufficient identity. (Several corollary consequences of the analysis will also be discussed in the talk.) The explanatory value of the analysis, however, is predicated on the absolute non-existence of constraints directly penalizing all-but-F identity, which could be active independently of F-assimilation. The second part of the talk addresses this question: how can such constraints be ruled out formally? I propose a deterministic model of constraint construction and evaluation that results in just the types of constraints necessary for the analysis above. More broadly, the proposed model is intended as a contribution to our formal understanding of what a ‘possible constraint’ is.