Monthly Archives: February 2016

Surkalovic 2015: The No-Reference Hypothesis: A Modular Approach to the Syntax-Phonology Interface

Direct link:

ROA: 1272
Title: The No-Reference Hypothesis: A Modular Approach to the Syntax-Phonology Interface
Authors: Dragana Surkalovic
Length: 322
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the interface of syntax and phonology in a fully modular view of language, deriving the effects of syntactic structure on prosodification without referring to that structure in the phonological computation. It explores the effects of the Multiple Spell-Out Hypothesis and ‘syntax-all-the-way-down approaches’, specifically Nanosyntax, on the phonological computation. The dissertation addresses three issues for modularity: (i) phonology can see edges of syntactic constituents, (ii) phonology distinguishes between lexical and functional elements in syntax, and (iii) phonology recognizes Information Structure marking features. The No-Reference Hypothesis is presented as the solution. It states that phonological computation needs to proceed in phases in order to achieve domain mapping while maintaining an input to phonology consisting of purely phonological information. The dissertation provides an explicit account of how the outputs of different phases get linearized wrt each other, providing arguments that spell-out does not proceed in chunks but produces cumulative cyclic input to phonology. An analysis is provided, using data from English, Kayardild and Ojibwa, showing how prosodic domains can be derived from phases by phonological computation being faithful to the prosodification output of the previous phase. The analysis is formalized by introducing Phase-Phase Faithfulness constraints to Optimality Theory.
Type: Dissertation
Keywords: Phonology, Syntax, interface, modularity, phases, Nanosyntax, linearization



UMass dissertations available on-line

UMass dissertations are now being made available on-line through our open access Scholar Works program. Below are the recent dissertations in phonology available there, as well as one newer one that has yet to be processed, but is available on the author’s home page.

Claire Moore-Cantwell, 2016. The representation of probabilistic phonological patterns: Neurological, behavioral, and computational evidence from the English stress system.

Presley Pizzo, 2015. Investigating Properties of Phonotactic Knowledge Through Web-Based Experimentation.

Brian Smith, 2015. Phonologically Conditioned Allomorphy and UR Constraints.

Robert Staubs, 2014. Computational Modeling of Learning Biases in Stress Typology

Kathryn Ringler Pruitt. 2012. Stress in Harmonic Serialism.


Discussion: Paper review guidelines

From Joe Pater (

Bruce Hayes has agreed to let me post the following draft review guidelines he came up with a little while ago (though see his caveat below). I thought that putting these in the public domain might inspire reviewers to better practices, and perhaps also inspire journals to provide explicit guidance of this sort to their reviewers. I’d be interested to know about other sorts of advice that could be usefully given, and if there are existing explicit guidelines that people know of.

Dear Joe,
Sure, feel free to circulate what I wrote.  Looking it over now, I realize it is far too blunt and bullying to serve as an actual “Instructions for Referees” document and I hope people will read it instead as a spontaneous cri du coeur from an experienced/beleaguered Associate Editor.


1. Please try to have your review completed within one month. If you anticipate your review taking longer, please contact the editor and obtain her approval first.

2. Your review should include both evaluative comments and a firm editorial recommendation.  The latter may range from “accept without change” to “reject without invitation to resubmit”.  The widely-employed intermediate recommendation, “revise and resubmit”, is too vague if it is not augmented with appropriate comments. Specifically, you can say what specific changes would need to be successfully implemented in order for the paper to become publishable. You can also say whether it is acceptable to you not to review the revised version; i.e. whether you want simply to trust the author to make the appropriate changes.

Do not use “revise and resubmit” merely as a euphemism, intended to be kindly; while a recommendation for outright rejection may seem harsher, it is likely to spare many people unnecessary work. It may also be more helpful for the journal’s goals of enforcing high scholarly standards.

3. A review can achieve greater credibility if it begins with a summary of the paper’s main point; this helps establish that the reviewer understands the paper he is reviewing.

4. Review the paper in its own terms.  If it relies on a theoretical framework that has attracted publication and attention, then you should assume that it is acceptable for this framework to be used; do not use the review process as an arena for framework-warring.  There is usually plenty to say about the quality of the evidence and reasoning keeping within the general assumptions of the paper.

5. Bear in mind that very long reviews can be problematic. They certainly generate extra work for authors and editors, and in the long run they change expectations about what is required of reviewers, so that reviewing becomes a heavy burden and it is difficult for editors to find volunteer reviewers. Long reviews are also likely to result in very long revised papers, crammed with passages that lack the authors’ own conviction but are intended to mollify skeptical  reviewers. You may wish to read over your completed review before submitting it, trimming back items that on reconsideration seem unlikely to result in improvement.

6. It goes without saying that a review should maintain a high degree of professionalism and courtesy to the author. Rereading and editing your review before submission with this in mind can be helpful.

7. If you like to note typos and grammatical infelicities, feel free to put them at the end of your report.  However, it is not required that you do this, and if it delays the completion of your review you should consider omitting this task.


Discussion: Sour Grapes and Use it or Lose It

From Joe Pater (

I’d like to ask whether anyone knows of examples of two apparently unattested phonological patterns, and also raise the issue of what their unattestedness means for accounts of unbounded feature spreading.

The better-known of the two is the Sour Grapes pattern, a gap brought to our attention by Eric Bakovic, John McCarthy and Colin Wilson. It has the following description: spread a feature unboundedly, unless there is a blocking segment in the potential span, in which case don’t spread at all. I had never seen a case like this, until I read Adam Jardine’s recent paper which points to Bickmore and Kula’s work on Copperbelt Bemba, which seems to display a Sour Grapes effect (in tonal spreading).

The less well known gap is what Kevin Mullin and I are calling the “Use it or Lose it” pattern: spread a marked feature if there is an available target, but if there is not, delink it. Spreading into a licensing position for a marked feature, like a stressed syllable, is attested at least for some features and some positions, and so are the related neutralization patterns (see Rachel Walker’s book), but the pattern we’re pointing to doesn’t require that the target position for spreading be a licensing position. Kevin and Colin Wilson seemed to have independently noticed that this pattern is generated by McCarthy’s (2011) Share account when a markedness constraint is included in the constraint set. We talk about the pattern, and propose a means of avoiding it, in this handout from MFM 2015.

Assuming that these two gaps are real, for at least non-tonal features, they seem to point in different directions for our understanding of harmony, at least in OT. Sour Grapes seems to indicate that there needs to be a positive benefit for each instance of spreading. Use it or Lose it seems to indicate that this benefit cannot override a compulsion to delete a marked feature (as Kevin and I note, it seems to be a general problem for positive spreading constraints, including also Align and reward-assigning Spread). Our solution is to make the choice to parse a feature the first step in spreading it, but I’m sure there are other ways of getting a system that simultaneously avoids both kinds of overgeneration (Wilson suggests that Targeted Constraints can do the job, for instance).


NAPhC9 Call for papers

The 9th North American Phonology Conference (NAPhC9) will be held

May 7-8, 2016 at Concordia University in Montreal.

Invited speakers for NAPhC9 are

We welcome abstracts for talks of 40 minutes (including questions)  on any aspect of phonological representation and computation from an internalist, nativist, symbol-processing perspective.

Abstract guidelines:

  • Deadline: March 1st, 2016
  • Format: pdf file
  • Length: 2-5 pages
  • Submission by email to
  • Anonymous abstract with following info in message:
    • Name and affiliation of author(s) (Alphabetically, in case of multiple authors)
    • Status of each author (student, post-doc, professor, etc)
    • Poster–YES/NO? Are you willing to present your research in a POSTER? (Your answer will not affect your chances of acceptance for a talk)

Results will be sent out before March 15th.

Further information will be made available at

Charles Reiss
Professor, Linguistics Program
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve W.
Montreal H3G 1M8
514 848-2424 x2491 (office: email is best)

Prince 2016: What is OT?

From the OT-List

Direct link:

ROA: 1271
Title: What is OT?
Authors: Alan Prince
Comment: PDF of PPT.
Length: 74 slides
Abstract: Overview of the structure of OT, as it develops from the definition of optimality and determines the conduct of analysis. The perspective is essentially that of the original work in the area, updated and clarified by more recent work in the logic of the theory. The document is self-contained and includes links to the material it rests on and leads toward.
Type: Paper/tech report
Keywords: formal analysis