The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 10/13 - Edward Flemming

Speaker: Edward Flemming (MIT)
Title: Deriving Implicational Universals in Optimality Theory
Date: Tuesday, October 13rd
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D461

Many phonological universals are implicational in form, e.g. ‘If a language allows obstruents to be syllabified as the nucleus of a syllable then that language also allows sonorant consonants to be syllabified as the nucleus of a syllable.’ In Optimality Theory, implicational universals are often supposed to follow from the existence of hierarchies of constraints with universal rankings (or from stringency hierarchies). Implicational universals do follow from the possible rankings of a constraint hierarchy and a single conflicting constraint, but the more common situation of interaction between two conflicting constraint hierarchies is more complex because the constraints in two hierarchies can be interleaved in many ways. We will see that there are cases where positing a constraint hierarchy is not sufficient to derive an implicational universal because the structure of the conflicting hierarchy undermines the expected implication. I will propose a revision of standard OT, Ranked Violations OT, in which it is possible to constrain the interactions between constraint hierarchies, allowing for the correct derivation of implicational universals in these cases.