Derivations and Constraints in Phonology

Derivations and Constraints in Phonology

Derivations and Constraints in Phonology

Derivations and Constraints in Phonology

Synopsis

For the first time in over thirty years a revolution is happening in phonology, with the advent of constraint-based approaches which directly oppose the rule-and-derivation tradition of mainstream Generative Phonology. The success of Optimality Theory and the rapidity of its spread since its official launch in 1993 is remarkable even by the general standards of post-1950s linguistics. Many phonologists appear to have been caught up in the whirlwind, as witnessed by the substance of many current working papers and conferences the world over, and the recent contents of well-established journals. Two questions naturally arise: What is Optimality Theory about? In what way is Optimality Theory superior to traditional theory, if indeed it is? In this book, leading specialists and active researchers address these issues directly, and focus deliberately on the evaluation of the two competing approaches rather than on simple displays of their applicability to limited bodies of data.

Excerpt

The present collection grew out of a three-day workshop on derivations and constraints in phonology organized by the editor at the University of Essex in the autumn of 1995. The purpose of the workshop, like that of the collection, was to bring to the fore and thrash out the differences that separate traditional rule-and-derivation generative phonology from its current competitor, Optimality Theory, manifestly growing in vogue by the day. The rationale underpinning this endeavour is that a principled decision about the adequacy of the theories can only be taken when such differences are clearly understood and rigorously stated. The workshop was fruitful in exchange and discussion, and conveniently laid the ground for the written work that is now presented to a wider audience.

The papers in the volume have been written by some of the participants in the Essex workshop and by other leading specialists specifically brought in for the task. The focus has been strictly respected, sometimes against difficult odds. Each paper was submitted to a rigorous review procedure by a team of experts, which included a number of readers anonymous to the authors. The result is, I hope, a valuable contribution to the debate, one in particular that can short-circuit wasteful developments and bring us a little closer to the phonological truth we are all anxious to achieve.

The work is organized in three parts. The first part, Preliminaries, introduces the volume, and will be of particular use to those readers not fully conversant with Optimality Theory in general or with some specific aspect of it. I am confident that the induction to optimality in the first two sections of Chapter I and most of Chapter 2 (which deliberately grows harder as it goes on) can be read and understood by anyone familiar with the contents of such recent state- of-the-art surveys of traditional generative phonology as those by M. Kensto wicz (Phonology in Generative Grammar, Oxford: Blackwell, 1994) or I. Roca (Generative Phonology, London: Routledge, 1994). I am hopeful, therefore, that the inclusion of this induction will foster the unity of the field by ensuring that colleagues who, for some reason or other, have not kept up with the developments of the past three years are not left behind and excluded. The second part of the volume, Theoretical Investigations, contains three chapters aimed at a level of theoretical generality above the rest, dealing respectively with the logical commensurability of classical generative theory with Optimality Theory, the justification of these two theories in the context of phonetic . . .

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