[Author Login]
Title:What Constraints Should OT Allow?
Authors:Jason Eisner
Comment:20 pp. Talk handout from LSA 1997. (9 Jan 1997)
Abstract: What Constraints Should OT Allow?

Jason Eisner - University of Pennsylvania


January 9, 1997 (corrected version)

Handout for talk at LSA Annual Meeting, Chicago, 1/4/97.

Optimality Theory (OT) has shown itself to be an elegant framework for

phonological description. Two important questions remain to be

settled, however: What constraints are allowed? And what kind of

representations do they constrain? Formalizing what OT can and cannot

say is part of stating UG.

This talk proposes an approach to constraining OT, called "primitive

Optimality Theory" (OTP). Most constraints given in the literature

can be reformulated (not always obviously) as coming from one of two

simple, local families of ``primitive constraints'':

Alignment (licensing): Each a temporally overlaps some b.

(If not, it incurs one violation mark.)

Disalignment (clash): Each a temporally overlaps no b.

(Each overlap incurs one violation mark.)

Here, a and b may be constituents, edges of constituents, or

restricted kinds of conjunctive or disjunctive configurations.

We formalize these families and the representations that they

constrain. As in Optimal Domains Theory, neither the constraints nor

the representations use association lines. The constraints control

only the relative timing of articulatory gestures, and other

phonological or morphological constituents, along a continuous


A list of hundreds of constraints drawn from the literature is

presented, showing how every degree of freedom of OTP is exploited in

each of several areas: features, prosody, feature-prosody interaction,

input-output relationships, and morphophonology. To show that the

primitive constraints are not merely necessary, but also close to

sufficient, we also discuss how to handle a few apparently difficult

cases of non-local phenomena.
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1