Optimality Theory in Phonology

Maria Gouskova

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544004
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Optimality Theory in Phonology

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  • Linguistics
  • Phonetics and Phonology


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This chapter presents an overview of Optimality Theory (OT) as applied to phonology. OT is a theory of constraint interaction in grammar, which aims to solve a couple of problems that have confronted generative phonological theory since its earliest days. The first problem is conspiracies: in some languages, there is a constraint that seems to be satisfied in a variety of ways, as if the rules conspire to achieve a single target. The second problem is soft universals: unrelated languages show evidence of the same or similar constraints, but the constraints do not seem to hold in all languages. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 21.2 describes the architecture of OT, including its basic components and approach to typology. Section 21.3 addresses the status of the lexicon in OT. Section 21.4 and 21.5 describe some work on learnability, acquisition, and variation, and Section 21.6 concludes.

Keywords: constraint interaction; grammar; conspiracies; universals; typology; lexicon

Article.  8817 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Phonetics and Phonology

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