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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Linguistics Research Center supports and facilitates research on the phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of languages, particularly those that differ significantly from English in structure. It publishes a working-paper series, sponsors research colloquia, and hosts longer visits to the campus by international scholars. Founded in 1981, the center is housed in Stevenson College and fully integrated into the Department of Linguistics. Current research projects include the typology of noun phrases, the syntax and semantics of indefinites, the phonological structure of the lexicon, morphosyntactic markedness and typology in optimality theory, featural representations in optimality theory, and morphological parsing.

Cover page of Whatever Happened to the Past Tense Debate?

Whatever Happened to the Past Tense Debate?


Twenty years ago, I began a collaboration with Alan Prince that has dominated the course of my research ever since. Alan sent me a list of comments on a paper by James McClelland and David Rumelhart. Not only had Alan identified some important flaws in their model, but pinpointed the rationale for the mechanisms that linguists and cognitive scientists had always taken for granted and that McClelland and Rumelhart were challenging -- the armamentarium of lexical entries, structured representations, grammatical categories, symbol-manipulating rules, and modular organization that defined the symbol-manipulation approach to language and cognition. By pointing out the work that each of these assumptions did in explaining aspects of a single construction of language -- the English past tense -- Alan outlined a research program that could test the foundational assumptions of the dominant paradigm in cognitive science. My graduate advisor Roger Brown once decried the lack of progress in much of psychology owing to the phenomenon in which "a large quantity of frequently conflicting theory and data can become cognitively ugly and so repellent as to be swiftly deserted, its issues unresolved." I like to think that the past-tense debate, now in its third decade, is a more hopeful case, despite the impression in some observers that it has reached a stalemate. In this paper I summarize my view of the current state of the art.

Cover page of On Theoretical Facts and Empirical Abstractions

On Theoretical Facts and Empirical Abstractions


My goal is to argue the merits of a type of work that is somewhat rare in linguistics, and to illustrate this kind of work in three domains: phonological inventories and conjunctive constraint interaction, non-participating segments in vowel harmony, and the general nature of phonological categories like 'possible word of language L'.

Cover page of Restraint of Analysis

Restraint of Analysis


Prince & Smolensky (1993) describe a version of OT, one in which maximal harmony is achieved in small steps of gradual harmonic improvement, because a more restrained GEN is limited to making modest changes in the input one at a time.

In this chapter, I explore some of the differences between classic OT with free GEN on the one hand and persistent OT with restrained GEN on the other. We will see, as Prince and Smolensky (1993) suggest, that the single-operation and harmonic-improvement requirements do indeed have consequences that are different from those of the familiar OT model. This chapter's goal is not to decide squarely for one version of OT over the other, though elsewhere (McCarthy 2006) I argue in favor of a derivative of persistent OT called OT-CC (for OT with candidate chains).

Cover page of Learning from Paradigmatic Information

Learning from Paradigmatic Information


Paradigmatic information is information requiring knowledge of morphological identity across words. It consists of the phonological consequences of knowing that a morpheme must have a single phonological underlying form, even if it surfaces differently in different words. There are two basic forms of paradigmatic information. One is morphemic alternation: the surface realizations of a single morpheme in different morphological contexts (a context consists of the other morphemes used to form the word). The other is morphemic contrast: the surface realizations of two different morphemes in the same morphological context.

Paradigmatic information is necessary for phonological learning. This can be demonstrated with a constructed linguistic system in which several distinct languages, with distinct mappings, have identical inventories of surface phonological forms. To learn the full phonology, the learner must utilize paradigmatic information: that is the only information that can distinguish the different phonotactically identical phonologies.

Cover page of On the Peripatetic Behavior of Aspiration in Sanskrit Roots

On the Peripatetic Behavior of Aspiration in Sanskrit Roots


This paper deals with Grassmann's and Bartholomae's Laws in Sanskrit. The former has the effect of distributing aspiration inside a root. The second accounts for the progressive assimilation of voicing and aspiration. Grassmann's Law, for example, is responsible for the alternation between bodh-ati '3rd sg. pres. ind' of the root /bhaudh/ 'know, wake' and bhot-sya-ti '3rd sg. fut'. In the former aspiration appears on the final consonant of the root while in the latter it appears on the initial consonant of the root. Grassmann's Law is intended to account for this migratory behavior. Bartholomae's Law, on the other hand, is intended to account for what happens in the form buddha 'past participle' from /bhudh + ta/ where in addition to progressive voicing assimilation, aspiration migrates from the root final consonant to the following consonant.

Cover page of Association Faith and Korean Palatalization

Association Faith and Korean Palatalization


The current effort will advance the notion that faithfulness to underlying structural relationships (Frel) may be relativized to homomorphemic strings only (HOMFrel). Under the appropriate ranking with markedness constraints this approach allows us to capture the facts of such phenomena as KPA much in the spirit of Kiparsky's original observation, that alternations may be blocked from application in non-derived environments, within a fully parallel OT.

Cover page of Towards a Uniform Account of Prominence-Sensitive Stress

Towards a Uniform Account of Prominence-Sensitive Stress


Although various phenomena are often included under the general heading of prominence-sensitive stress, weight sensitivity and sonority sensitivity are the canonical examples. In weight-sensitive systems, stress is attracted to syllables with a greater number of moras at the expense of syllables with a lesser number. In sonority-sensitive systems, stress is attracted to syllables containing vowels of greater sonority at the expense of syllables containing vowels of lesser sonority. In this article, I will first develop an analysis of weight sensitivity, and then I will extend the analysis to sonority sensitivity. The aim is to provide a general and uniform account of both phenomena.

Cover page of Chains as Unfaithful Optima

Chains as Unfaithful Optima


Optimality Theory is a theory of the economy of constraint violation. Can this property of the theory be exploited in our understanding of economy effects in general? Can economy of structure and movement be derived without reference to economy of structure and movement? The central idea of this paper is that the choice between filling positions by movement and filling positions with independent material is determined by markedness and faithfulness constraints. There is no 'economy of movement' constraint, just economy of movement effects. Economy of movement follows from the theory of what a chain is.

Cover page of Neutral Vowels in Lokaa Harmony

Neutral Vowels in Lokaa Harmony


This paper discusses the neutral vowels in Lokaa harmony, [i, u, {schwa}, a]. By neutral I mean a segment which has no harmonic counterpart. Such segments are either transparent or opaque. Lokaa harmony is important in three crucial respects. First, while it is rare to find a language which has both transparent and opaque vowels in its harmony, Lokaa does. The high vowels [i, u] are transparent to harmony; the low vowel [a] is opaque, and the status of the mid vowel schwa is indeterminate. Secondly, though Lokaa has an eight-vowel inventory the vowels [a] and schwa have not 're-paired' (Bakovic 2000, 2003). They do not alternate, as we find for example in the neighboring language Igede (Bergman 1971, Armstrong 1983), or in Wolof (Ka 1994) which has an identical vowel system. Thirdly, the historic ATR contrast found in Benue-Congo high vowels (Stewart 1971, Williamson 1973) shows up when high vowel stems take mid-vowel prefixes, though the high vowels can only be [+ATR] on the surface. That is, the ATR merger of high vowels in Lokaa is not complete.