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Unformatted text preview: OPTIMALITY THEORY REVISITED Types, Trends and Clusters, or Another Kind of Universality Term paper submitted to UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA in partial fulfillment of the requirements for LIN5915 – PHONOLOGY by Teodora Mihoc DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA 2011 (1) Introduction This paper is mainly interested in what constitutes a good paradigm for linguistic research. It is an attempt to find an answer to some of my own older queries but also to bring together ideas for a new linguistic paradigm. First, I observed that Optimality Theory, regarded by its authors as the highest achievement of the generative enterprise, and in a sense the starkest expression of UG- universals, is nevertheless discarded by others as unrealistic. Then, I pursued analyses by various authors which indicated, in turn, that OT is computationally and cognitively problematic and, respectively, typologically insufficient. Following this, I proceeded to show why OT universalism is a dogma and how it would fare better as a working hypothesis instead. Finally, I agreed with Evans&Levinson that linguistic universality and diversity are best discussed in a coevolutionary approach. Disclaimer : The claims quoted in this research certainly require a lot more substantiation than I was able to provide within the space of this paper. Factual detail inaccuracies notwithstanding, I hope I have managed to sketch at least a suggestive picture of the topic. (2) The pinnacle of generative grammar In their controversial but highly thought-provoking paper The myth of language universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science and in their no less stimulating follow-up response to critics With diversity in mind: Freeing the language sciences from Universal Grammar , Evans&Levinson (2009a,b) declared (although in a remarkably non- polemic tone) the fundamental inadequacies of the generative UG-based approach to language: The claims of Universal Grammar, we argue here, are either empirically false, unfalsifiable, or misleading in that they refer to tendencies rather than strict universals. Structural differences should instead be integrated into a new approach to language and cognition that places diversity at centre stage. (2009a: 429) And then set out to deploy a systematic rebuttal of many universalist claims and to sketch the outlines of a new paradigm with the result that their readership was sharply divided in protesting generativists and enthusiastic cognitive scientists – the latter warmly applauding the shift of perspectives. However, some of the generativists who felt Evans&Levinson’s attack was unfair were Smolensky and Dupoux (2009) who, in a joint paper, replied that Optimality Theory…contains the strongest architectural and specific universals currently available within generative grammar. According to OT’s architectural universals…grammatical computation is optimization over a set of ranked constraints....
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2012 for the course LINGUISTIC LIN5915 taught by Professor Mathieu during the Spring '12 term at University of Ottawa.
- Spring '12