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Title:The Initial State and 'Richness of the Base' in Optimality Theory
Authors:Paul Smolensky
Abstract:Paul Smolensky

Cognitive Science Department, Johns Hopkins University

Basic learnability considerations are argued to explain the broad

generalization that the same linguistic structures which are marked in

the sense of later-emerging in child language tend also to be marked in

adult languages. Using Optimality Theory (OT), and developing a

proposal of Prince (1993), this generalization can be reduced to the

requirement that the initial state H0 possess the property that

structural markedness constraints outrank faithfulness constraints. H0

is explained as a learnability consequence of a fundamental OT

principle, richness of the base: the set of possible inputs to the

grammar is universal. This principle entails a strong requirement for

what it means to have acquired a language with an unmarked inventory:

subordination of faithfulness constraints in the absence of evidence of

their domination. This raises a familiar type of Subset Problem for

acquisition, which H0 resolves. Richness of the base lends unity to a

seemingly incoherent set of assumptions defining the emerging OT theory

of acquisition: the initial state is H0, and the child's inputs to the

grammar are close to the adult form.

Keywords: learnability, markedness, Optimality Theory, Subset Problem,

richness of the base, acquisition
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1