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Title:Parsing syllables: modeling OT computationally
Authors:Michael Hammond
Comment:22pp. (Code for the parser available at http://www.u.arizona.edu/~hammond)
Abstract:Parsing syllables: modeling OT computationally

Michael Hammond

University of Arizona

Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky, 1993; McCarthy &

Prince, 1993) maintains that phonological generalizations can be

treated by a two-step process. First, all possible pronunciations for

some string are generated by the GEN operation. Then, the best of

these different pronunciations is chosen by a set of ranked and

violable constraints. This is the dominant theory of phonology today.

This theory poses a serious problem for theories of

phonological performance; the model cannot be implemented in real time

because the candidate set is infinite. Even if we eliminate a number

of options in generating candidates, we are still left with an

extremely large number of candidate pronunciations to sift through in

finite time.

In this paper, I propose to implement syllabification in OT as

a parser. I propose several innovations that result in a finite and

small candidate set. The candidate set problem is handled with several

moves: i) MAX and DEP violations are not hypothesized by the parser,

ii) candidates are encoded locally, and iii) EVAL is applied

constraint by constraint.

The parser I propose is implemented in Prolog. It has a number

of desirable consequences. First, it runs and thus provides an

existence proof that syllabification can be implemented in OT. There

are a number of other desirable consequences as well. First,

constraints are implemented as finite-state transducers. Second, the

parser makes several interesting claims about the phonological

properties of so-called nonrecoverable insertions and

deletions. Third, the implementation suggests some particular

reformulations of some of the benchmark constraints in the OT arsenal,


Finally, the implementation is compared with various other

proposals in the literature, e.g. Ellison (1994), Hammond (1995),

Tesar (1995), and Eisner (1997).
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1