|Title:||Deriving variation from grammar: A study of Finnish genitives|
|Abstract:|| Deriving variation from grammar
The claim is that variation, including probabilities, can be derived
from an optimality-theoretic grammar. Two specific questions are
discussed: (i) The locus of variation: Why are only certain forms
susceptible to variation? (ii) Degrees of variation: Why is one
variant preferred over the other?
The empirical data comes from Finnish morphology. Polysyllabic stems
such as /naapuri/ 'neighbor' have multiple genitive plurals such as
/naapurien/ and /naapureiden/ which are clearly distinct but
phonologically related. The variation is systematic and productive and
extends to recent loans and foreign names. Based on a 1.3 million word
on-line corpus, I show that categorical outputs, variable outputs and
statistical preferences follow from syllable prominence defined as a
combination of stress, weight and sonority. The key idea is that the
grammar is a partial order. The number of tableaux by which a variant
wins predicts its probability of occurrence. In the categorical cases,
the grammar converges on a single winner, i.e. one and the same
candidate wins in all the tableaux compatible with the partial
order. Variation arises if the partial order is too weak to select a
unique winner. Statistical preferences arise if the grammar biases the
numerical result in favor of some candidate.
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