The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/15 - Adam Albright (MIT) & Donca Steriade (MIT)

Speaker: Adam Albright (MIT) & Donca Steriade (MIT)
Title: Discussion: Rasin and Katzir (2016, 2020)
Time: Monday, November 15th, 2pm – 3:30pm

Abstract: (This is a continuation of the discussion that took place on 10/25)

We will discuss two recent papers by Ezer Rasin and Roni Katzir. Rasin and Katzir (2016) On Evaluation Metrics in Optimality Theory (LI 47) describes an application of the principle of Minimum Description Length (MDL) as an evaluation metric for OT. MDL is a framework that rewards analyses that can encode the analysis and data as compactly as possible. In the original formulation of OT (Prince and Smolensky 1993/2004), grammars are total rankings of a universally fixed set of constraints (CON), so do not differ in size in any interesting way; Rasin and Katzir propose to allow language-particular constraint sets, and show that MDL learning can favor grammars and lexicons that restrictively characterize the data. Rasin and Katzir (2020) A conditional learnability argument for constraints on underlying representations (J. Linguistics 56) examines more closely the way in which the MDL approach achieves a restrictive grammar. It argues that the evaluation metric favors analyses that include constraints on underlying representations, contrary to the usual OT assumption of Richness of the Base.