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Title:Lexicon Optimization in Languages without Alternations
Authors:Moira Yip
Abstract:Languages with few or no alternations have never fitted smoothly

into rule-based theories with a commitment to lexical economy. To

derive rich surface inventories from more parsimonious underlying

inventories, it was necessary to postulate abstract underlying

forms even for morphemes which only ever surfaced with one

particular allophone. Even if lexical economy was demoted as a

paramount consideration, the occurrence of alternations in one

small corner of the grammar, such as in loanwords, still forced

the linguist back to the abstract and rule-based analysis. This

was so because the alternative, a set of phonotactic statements

about the surface distribution of allophones, could not alone

produce alternations: only rules could do that, and once the

grammar included rules, they could be made use of for other

purposes, including the non-alternating forms. Output-based

theories are tailor-made for language of this type. Surface-true

generalizations can be trivially dealt with. When alternations

are encountered, they can be understood as the direct result of

the pressure to observe these surface constraints, and no special

rules are needed.

Using data from vowel systems in several Chinese dialects,

Mandarin palatal consonants, and Chaoyang nasalization, it is

argued that abstract underlying representations and rules that

produce surface forms are highly inefficient for non-alternating

systems, in that they frequently require both rules that derive A

from B, and rules that derive B from A, in the same contexts. It

is proposed that language is learnt on the basis of core data,

and that non-core data - language games, poetry, speech errors,

onomatopoeia, loanwords - can be used as a probe to investigate

the nature of the underlying representations. This paper finds

inconclusive evidence for abstract underlying representations,

and concludes that the balance of the evidence suggests that

learners acquire something rather close to what they hear, unless

information from alternations or paradigms forces them to do

otherwise. These findings provide support for Lexicon

Optimization (Prince and Smolensky 1993).

[This paper will appear in J. Durand, ed., Current Trends in

Phonology. Royaumont, Paris.]

Moira Yip

Dept of Linguistics

School of Social Sciences

University of California, Irvine

Irvine, CA 92717

Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1