Process-Specific Constraints in Optimality Theory

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Dept. of Linguistics

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University of Massachusetts

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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant SBR-9420424. I am indebted to John Alderete, Jill Beckman, Laura Benua, Stuart Davis, Linda Lombardi, and two anonymous referees for Linguistic Inquiry. I am particularly grateful to Alan Prince, whose suggestions have significantly reshaped this article.

1 It is by no means clear that RTR is the right distinctive feature for emphasis in Arabic (see Herzallah 1990 and McCarthy 1994 for alternatives), but since this issue is not relevant to my remarks here, I adopt Davis’s assumption to simplify comparison with his original article.

2 Under the opposite ranking, F >> M, the structural constraint does not affect the underlying surface map. Nonetheless, it may still be active when the dominating constraint F is irrelevant. This situation, dubbed “emergence of the unmarked” in McCarthy and Prince (1994), derives from the OT claim that constraints are universal but their ranking differs from grammar to grammar (Prince and Smolensky 1993).

3 In Correspondence Theory (McCarthy and Prince 1995), Stay-ATR is called Ident(ATR) and is formalized as in (i). (The string S1 is the input; S2 refers to the output.)

4 For an alternative, see Beckman (1995).

5 See Prince and Smolensky 1993: Chapter 4 and Myers 1995 for detailed discussion of such blocking configurations.

6 The details of RTR contrast in Palestinian Arabic are quite complex — see Younes 1982 and Herzallah 1990 for data and analysis. Davis does not address most of the particulars, and neither will I, but I will call attention to an issue that comes up in this connection.

7 The ranking RTR-Left >> RTR-Right, required in both Palestinian dialects, is perhaps to be related to the well-known bias for anticipatory over perseverative coarticulation.

8 An anonymous reviewer avers that this restrictive prediction of OT holds true only in a monostratal implementation but not in a multistratal one. If a single language contains several serially-connected OT grammars, each with its own constraint hierarchy, it might be possible to get the descriptive effect of Davis’s hypothetical dialect in the ultimate output, even though no individual stratum can support the mutually incompatible rankings in () .


Davis (1995: (10)) proposes that the feature RTR is feature-geometrically dependent on Lower-VT. Accordingly, when rules like () spread RTR onto segments that lack a Lower-VT node, one is generated automatically to maintain consistency of feature-geometric structure. This operation of Node Generation is a standard assumption in the framework Davis adopts (Archangeli and Pulleyblank 1994: 23).

10 Explicit discussions of this general problem include Poser 1982, Archangeli and Pulleyblank 1987, 1994, Myers 1987, 1995, and Itô, Mester, and Padgett 1995.

11 This attraction of RTR to a can perhaps be connected with Cohn’s 1995 idea that phonological specifications must be saliently realized, with ideas about perceptual salience in Optimal Domains Theory (Cole and Kisseberth 1994), and with Kaun’s 1995 proposal that a function of harmony is to maximize the perceptual salience of otherwise hard-to-hear contrasts.

12 When the string of Lower-VT segments ends in a guttural consonant, rather than a, RTR-to-a will prevail over lower-ranked RTR-Right, selecting Ta nak rather than Ta nak. This transcriptional nuance is inconsequential, since impressionistic phonetic evidence cannot tell us whether or not the pharyngeal consonant is RTR. If instrumental phonetic evidence should confirm that Ta nak is a more accurate transcription, then RTR-to-a could be replaced by a constraint demanding that the RTR span end on a Lower-VT segment, subsuming a and the gutturals.

13 Spring 1994 presents a similar argument about the nature of epenthetic consonants: in Axininca Campa, epenthetic t behaves no differently from underlying t in undergoing palatalization.

14 Since epenthetic segments are typically unmarked, this assumption is necessary in any theory that equates unmarkedness with underspecification.

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