Monthly Archives: April 2018

Storme (2018) – A problem for *Map faithfulness constraints

A problem for *Map faithfulness constraints
Benjamin Storme
direct link:
January 2018
This squib shows that *Map faithfulness constraints, which have been used to model saltations (Hayes & White 2015), make problematic predictions. They predict that input-output changes may happen without any markedness constraints motivating them: this derives unattested phonological patterns such as intervocalic devoicing. By contrast, an approach based on Segment Faithfulness (Burzio 2000) is more restrictive and therefore preferrable: it predicts that input-output changes must always be motivated by markedness constraints.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003834
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: submitted
keywords: phonology, optimality theory, derived environments, saltations

Rahmani, Rietveld & Gussenhoven (2018) – Post-focal and factive deaccentuation in Persian

Post-focal and factive deaccentuation in Persian
Hamed Rahmani, Toni Rietveld, Carlos Gussenhoven
direct link:
January 2018
Two experiments were carried out to examine whether the Persian word accent is deleted in two putative deaccenting contexts, post-focal regions and presupposed embedded clauses, to the extent that accentual minimal pairs become homophonous. A production experiment showed low F0 plateaus on the post-focal and presupposed words, while a perception experiment showed that such words are not recognized above a just-noticeable-difference baseline. The results confirm that accents are deleted in the contexts concerned and that accent location contrasts are neutralized.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003831
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Glossa, a journal of general linguistics
keywords: accent; deaccentuation; focus; post-focus compression; factivity; presupposition; persian, semantics, syntax, phonology

Van Oostendorp (2018) – History of Phonology: Optimality Theory

History of Phonology: Optimality Theory
Marc Van Oostendorp
direct link:
January 2018
This paper describes the history of Optimality Theory as a theory of phonology between 1993. Its main argument is that there have been two lines of work on Optimality Theory. One line was taking OT seriously as a theory on language variation, computation and learnability, and finding restrictions on it. Another line was that the notation of OT very soon started working as a lingua franca for very different kinds of phonological analysis. In order to make this work, the empirical scope has been considerably broadened, but this may have been to the detriment of restrictivity and therefore of predictive power.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003827
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: B. Elan Dresher and Harry van der Hulst (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the history of phonology. To appear
keywords: optimality theory, history of linguistics, phonology
previous versions: v1 [January 2018]

Morris Halle RIP

Updated April 6th with photos sent by Donca Steriade, and link to MIT news office article with interviews with Donca, Noam Chomsky and David Pesetsky.

Circa 2000

LSA Summer Institute, UMass Amherst 1974




Original post.

Morris Halle died early this morning, April 2, 2018. There is no official notice on the MIT Linguistics site yet, but Mark Liberman has posted this very nice RIP note on Language Log, which has started to gather some further tributes:

It seems that the Phonolist audience might be somewhat different from Language Log, so if you have anything you wish to contribute here, please do so.



Discussion: Happy 25th to OT!

From Joe Pater

This year is a good candidate for the 25th anniversary of Optimality Theory. 1993 marks not only the publication date of Prince and Smolensky’s book as a technical report, but also the year of the establishment of the Rutgers Optimality Archive (tell that to your ArXiv-loving CS friends!).

This seems like a good occasion to reflect and reminisce, so I thought I’d start this discussion thread. I had an earlier chance to reflect on the history and status of violable constraints in phonology at the 2015 mfm “Whither OT” fringe workshop. My handout, and some related discussion, can be found here: At the same date as that workshop, a celebration of Alan Prince’s career was held at Rutgers, at which he was presented with the Short ‘Schrift (Baković ed.): This multimedia volume contains lots of relevant material to browse. Marc van Oostendorp has recently circulated his history of OT. The story of the beginning of Prince and Smolensky’s collaboration is told by the protagonists here: Finally, the handouts from Prince and Smolensky’s 1991 Linguistic Institute course, which include the 1991 Arizona Phonology conference handout “Optimality” (another candidate birthday) are here:

I don’t have any more serious reflections or general historical notes to add at this point, so I’ll just add a few reminiscences. I was a PhD student at McGill in 1993 when Prince and Smolensky’s manuscript appeared in Glyne Piggott’s mailbox. We made bound copies at the copy shop, and got reading. I have a crystal clear memory of reading it on the shore of Loughborough Lake that summer, thinking “this isn’t how everyone says phonology works”. I was skeptical for a while, especially about the claim that there were no rules (what was Gen, after all?), and it did take a lot of work to understand any of it. But I ended up being an early adopter, mostly because it allowed me to formalize some ideas I had about English stress.

I had the great fortune of being accepted as an alternate at the 1994 Prosodic Morphology conference in Utrecht, where John McCarthy nicely invited me to come sit in on his seminar in Correspondence Theory at UMass (I wish the Amtrak Vermonter still went all the way to Montreal!). I thus got to spend a lot of time interacting both with people working in OT, as well as with OT-skeptics (many Canadian phonologists, including my advisors at that time), which I think was a really good learning experience.

Another crisp memory of the early OT days is the “Is the Best Good Enough?” conference at MIT. Despite the somewhat tendentious title, the call also emphasized potential common ground between OT and Minimalism, which at that point included notions like minimization of derivational length. In his talk,  Chomsky abandoned that common ground, claiming that comparison of derivations was problematic on computational grounds. I wish I could remember the exact phrase – it was something like “obviously computationally intractable”. In the question period, Smolensky asked him to elaborate, citing his own work with Tesar on computing OT. As I recall, Chomsky said something that didn’t answer the question.