The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Course announcement: 24.964 Constraint interaction in Phonetics and Phonology

24.964 Topics in Phonology: Constraint interaction in Phonetics and Phonology
Instructor: Edward Flemming
Thursday 9:30am-12:30pm, 32-D461
Web site: http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa10/24.964/
(Preliminary readings are already posted).

One of the fundamental insights of Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004) is that phonology operates in terms of conflicting constraints. For example, the mapping from input representation to surface form is subject to markedness constraints that cannot all be satisfied without violating some faithfulness constraints. In order to be able to select a surface form in the face of constraint conflict it is necessary to have a mechanism for prioritizing constraints to adjudicate those conflicts. The standard approach, following Prince & Smolensky, is based on constraint ranking: conflicts are resolved in favor of the higher-ranked constraint. In this seminar we will compare this standard approach to alternatives based on numerical weighting of constraints (e.g. Harmonic Grammar , Maximum Entropy Grammars). These alternatives have been often been motivated by computational or learnability considerations, but we will focus on their implications for grammatical analysis and typology in phonetics and phonology.