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Title:Rules vs. Constraints: a Case Study
Authors:Bernard Tranel
Abstract: Rules vs. Constraints: A Case Study



Bernard Tranel

University of California, Irvine

In this paper, I sketch a cross-theoretical comparison of the

treatment of prefixal floating high tones in Mixteco (a language of

Southern Mexico studied by Kenneth Pike in the 1930's and 40's), and

argue in favor of Optimality Theory and violable universal

constraints, as opposed to the more traditional derivational framework

relying on language-specific rules and unviolable constraints.

The traditional constraints/conventions of relevance here are the

line-crossing constraint (LCC) and the universal association

convention (UAC) automatically linking free tones to free anchors. The

associative behavior of Mixteco's floating high tones is shown to

violate these two purportedly unviolable constraints/conventions.

Thus, the effect of the UAC is basically to parse free tones without

disturbing anchored tones or toned anchors (exhaustive one-to-one

tonal parsing), but the transparency of Mixteco's mid-tone vowels

(viewed as phonologically toneless) to the association of floating

high tones reveals that this effect may conflict with - and lose out

to - other universal demands of a morphological and phonological

nature (specifically, constraints on affixation and on the

preservation of input tonal prominence profiles). Similarly, the LCC

proves too powerful to explain the discriminating facts that Mixteco's

medial glottal stops form a barrier to the association of floating

high tones and thwart the transparency of mid-tone vowels (in

accordance with the LCC under the assumption that high tones and

glottal stops share a feature-geometric tier), but that initial

glottal stops do not (in violation of the LCC). By contrast, a

fundamental tenet of OT is that the power of universal constraints can

be modulated (violability); in this case, the inadequately rigid LCC

is essentially recast into more elementary and more malleable terms

pertaining to Alignment Theory, Faithfulness Conditions, and

Constraint Interaction.

Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1