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Re: THEORY: OT Syntax (Was: Re: THEORY: phonemes and Optimality Theory tutorial)

From:Marcus Smith <smithma@...>
Date:Monday, November 20, 2000, 5:16
Jesse Bangs wrote:

> > That depends on your theory of "Gen". Prince and Smolensky actually provide > > two different models. One - the one nearly everybody uses - generates all > > possible forms, then selects the most "optimal" form based on the > > constraints. The other only generates the forms relevant for the next > >Huh? This implies that Native Speaker X, before he says anything, stops >to generate every single conceivable combination of words and then applies >a bunch of constraints to rule out all of the illegal forms. That gets >impossible pretty fast. Do I misunderstand "Gen"?
No, you have the right idea. That disturbed me at first too, but it really is very simple, and not at all impossible. All you have to do is realize that there is a finite number of things that can be done to change a word, though these changes can be combined in an infinite number of ways. Once you determine that a given change is suboptimal to another one, you can immediately dismiss any candidate that involved that change. Dismissing one or two such suboptimal processes reduces the possibilities to a managable size very quickly. Given the proper algorithm, it is possible to deal with infinite sets without any difficulty whatsoever. (And there are many such algorithms already in use.) Let's say we have a process of adding the syllable [ba] at the end of a word. It does this iteratively: it adds one syllable to the first set, then two to the next, etc. To be more general, we can say that the process will create n candidates with n additions of [ba]. Let's not put an upper bound on this so that it creates an infinite set of candidates, involving an infinite number of additions of [ba] to a single candidate. We have an infinite set of candidates already, and we haven't even considered the process that prefixes [dim] in the same manner. All we have to do is rule any additiong of [ba] to be suboptimal, and we rule out all of these candidates instantly. To be more general, we can judge any addition of a syllable in a like manner to be suboptimal, and we can rule out an infinitely larger set of possibilities. Computational Phonologists work with computers that are much simpler than the human mind, yet they are quite capable of handling infinite sets with no difficulty. And if you assume a theory of Gen that does not allow you to generate the most rediculous candidates, then this problem doesn't even arise.
>Actually, I'm still quite confused about the theoretical framework for >OT.
OT is more of a framework than a theory in its own right. You can do just about anything with it. I know somebody who is working on an OT analysis of the differences between American and Russian ballet. The only thing OT really says is that you have a set of conflicting constraints, you generate all the possible candidates, then you find the optimal one according to the ranking of the constraint set. The only prediction it makes is that the output will be less "marked" than the input. The basis that OT works off of is almost entirely up to the theoretician. For somebody who wants to understand the theory, probably the best book to read is "Optimality Theory" by Rene Kager. It gives the basics, does lots of phonology and a little syntax. No semantics though, IIRC. =============================== Marcus Smith AIM: Anaakoot "When you lose a language, it's like dropping a bomb on a museum." -- Kenneth Hale ===============================