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Title:Optimality and functionality: Some critical remarks on OT syntax
Authors:Frederick J. Newmeyer
Abstract:Optimality and functionality: Some critical remarks on OT syntax

Frederick J. Newmeyer

University of Washington

This paper presents a critique of optimality-theoretic syntax. First,

it questions the frequently encountered claim that an OT approach to a

particular problem is 'restrictive', in the sense that it limits the

class of possible languages. Such claims, it will be argued, are in

principle difficult if not impossible to substantiate. Since constraints

are, by hypothesis, universal, there will almost surely be some additional

constraint whose interaction with the constraints of the proposed analysis

would yield the undesired grammars. Secondly, the paper criticizes the

attempt to provide substance to the idea that constraints are universal by

requiring for each a functional motivation. While identifying a function

for each OT constraint is trivially accomplishable, it is an undesirable

'accomplishment'. Functions and functionally-motivated hierarchies are

neither part of grammar nor linked directly to grammatical constructs.

Rather, their effect is manifest at the level of language use and language

acquisition and (therefore) language change. Finally, OT falters in its

treatment of optionality, whether discourse-independent or discourse-

dependent. In both cases, it needs to posit otherwise unneeded competition

sets and in the latter case it requires the blurring of the distinction

between purely syntactic generalizations and those relating syntactic

structure to information structure.
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1