[Author Login]
Title:The Structure of OT Typologies. Chapter 1: Introduction to Property Theory
Authors:Birgit Alber, Alan Prince
Comment:First chapter of monograph, laying out the theory. Ver. 2: some typos fixed.
Length:67 p.
Abstract:A system in Optimality Theory (OT) specifies the admitted candidates and the criteria ('constraints') that choose between them, and nothing more. The method of choice is fixed and sets OT apart from other theories that use the very same notions of structure and constraint.

Implicit within these commitments is the typology of the system -- the set of languages (collections of optima) and grammars (collections of rankings or conditions on ranking) that the system admits. In OT, these can be calculated from a sufficient finite collection of candidate sets, themselves consisting of finite collections of possible optima, a universal support. Every linguistic theory has a typology in the broad sense of the term; they differ in the extent to which learners are deemed to have access to it and the extent to which analysts attend to it.

In theories configured like OT, a typology is distant from the premises that define it. From reviewing its defining commitments in isolation, interested parties typically cannot tell what patterns a system produces, or how they are produced. It's not even a certainty, in general, that theories of this character will produce what we'd recognize as patterns, or employ what we'd think of as higher-order mechanisms to do so.

From its first days, however, the ecological experience of OT is that its typologies are structured objects, and that its linguistic import lies in those emergent structures. We adopt this insight programmatically and take steps here to develop a theory of OT typologies that uncovers significant aspects of their structure. We hope to have expanded on what was implicit and explicit in prior studies and at the same time to have opened the way to further progress.

Property Theory, as we term it, is based on the idea that an entire typology can be generated from a set of properties, where each property is a pair of opposing ranking conditions, called values. The value generalizes both the notion of a single constraint dominating another single constraint and the notion of the ERC (Elementary Ranking Condition), in which at least one member of a set of constraints dominates all the members of another set. Key notions in Property Theory are the constraint class; the methods of choosing from a class based on ranking structure; and the notion of scope, whereby a given property may be assigned relevance to a limited set of other properties. A class is determined not from definitional characteristics, but from the role its members play in determining the structure of the typology. The over-arching goal is to explicate how the traits discerned in the languages are tied to specific values in the property analysis of a typology.

This document is the first chapter of our ms. monograph on the subject. It is meant to give a reasonably comprehensive and detailed grasp of the proposal and the methodology we have used to develop it. It falls into two parts.
- Examination of a trio of related typologies that bring out the basic ideas (sections 1.2-1.4). Further chapters of the book study more complicated typologies in detail.
- A focused view of the proposal; a presentation of OT as it understood here; and an overview of the progress of emergence in the context of OT (sections 1.5-1.6).

A bibliography of work in Property Theory is given in the final section (1.7). References to background and supporting literature are found throughout the text.
Type:Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords:typology, formal analysis
Article:Version 2
Version 1