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lak öds rnar . lak öd  s rnar . MPhil seminar Evaluating OT. lak öds rnar . lak öd  s rnar . lak öd  s rnar . Iterativity and cyclicity. *lak öds rnar . *lak öd  s rnar . *lak öds rnar . Introduction. Today: multiple application: iterativity and cyclicity

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mphil seminar evaluating ot



MPhil seminarEvaluating OT




Iterativity and cyclicity




  • Today: multiple application: iterativity and cyclicity
  • Larger point: need for abstract intermediate stages of representation and computation
    • McCarthy claims that OT is only a theory of constraint ranking and says nothing about number of levels, etc., but one of its main points of appeal was the elimination of abstract stages of derivation
      • Orgun: “serial derivations are cognitively implausible”
      • McCarthy and Prince 1993:145 stress parallelism as central tenet of OT
      • Itô and Mester 1997:419 “there is no sequential phonological derivation in the sense of traditional generative phonology. There is no set of rules and operations applying in a certain order; there are also no cyclic derivations, in the sense that phonological operations first apply only within the smallest morphological domains available and work upwards through a series of more and more inclusive morphological domains.”
    • The facts of iterativity and cyclicity show that such stages are in fact necessary.
cyclic iterative effects
Cyclic & iterative effects
  • Ways in which a rule can apply 2+ discrete times to a single form
    • directional iterative application within a single level/cycle
    • cycle/multiple levels of derivation
  • These two cases have been treated separately in the recent literature, but bear certain important similarities.
cyclic iterative effects1
Cyclic & iterative effects

My own feeling is that anything I’ve done in the study of language or in other fields is hardly more than the application of normal standards of rationality, which have been taken for granted in the natural sciences for centuries, to phenomena in these fields. When you do, some things are immediately obvious. For example, it's immediately obvious that language involves a discrete infinity of constructions, that grammar involves iterative rules of several types. That is where the serious work begins...(Chomsky 1983)

  • Classic iterative phenomena (Yip 1992):
    • Alternating stress
    • Vowel harmony
    • Tone spreading
  • OT has means for handling these (e.g. Align constraints), but not more complicated types:
    • Basic iterativity crucially referring to intermediate intralevel representations
      • Abkhaz stress assignment and clash deletion
    • Cyclic iterativity
      • Itelmen epenthesis
      • Piro vowel deletion
basic iterativity
Basic iterativity
  • Abkhaz stress assignment (Dybo 1977, Wolfe 2000)
    • Assign word stress to leftmost (underlying) accented syllable not followed by another accented syllable; otherwise stress falls on the final syllable

accented root unaccented root

a-pa-ráto pleatá-pa-rato jump

a-ja-ráto lie downá-fa-rato eat

a-tsa-ráto goá-ta-rato give

madza secret

á-madza def.-secret

madzá-k’ secret-indef.

basic iterativity1
Basic iterativity
  • Iterative L  R clash deletion: *  Ø / _ * (Line 1)
  • a-pa-rá ‘to pleat’ vs. á-pa-ra ‘to jump’

Line 2

Line 1

Line 0


Line 1 left-headed

Project lexical accents

Project stress-bearing elements

basic iterativity2
Basic iterativity
  • Iterative clash deletion produces edgemost effects (rightmost member of a sequence of accents survives), but the domain (accent sequence) is not a prosodic constituent
  • In DP the effect is completely straightforward: having an abstract derivation allows local stepwise computation
  • This type of iterative effect therefore is not amenable to interpretation in terms of OT constraints (what about CLASH?)
    • In OT we expect VVV to produce *V V V (e.g. á-pa-ra), not V V V
    • The opaque interactions involved occur within a single level of derivation
      • McCarthy 2002:172 “within-level opacity, if it exists, will present exactly the same problems for OT-LP as it does for classic OT.”
      • Can’t be attributed to paradigmatic pressures.
    • What about a cross-level constraint “do not have a bracket in an output form when its correspondent in the input is adjacent to another bracket”?
      • McCarthy 2002:36—“classical markedness constraints cannot refer to the input, and so they are unable to make a distinction between new and inherited violations”
      • NB McCarthy’s Comparative Markedness theory may retreat to this, but it’s not clear if he still believes in this theory
cyclic iterativity
Cyclic iterativity
  • A process can apply only once within a given domain, yet apply repeatedly within a word (or phrase) by virtue of being cyclic
  • OT attempts to explain away cyclic effects:
    • Align constraints
    • Output-Output (OO) constraints
  • Problems:
    • Itelmen epenthesis: neither Align nor OO works
    • Uyghur: morphologically-based cycle required (Orgun)
    • Staged exceptionality
      • Piro vowel deletion: exceptionality parallels cyclicity
      • Segmental exceptionality
    • Cyclic variable rules
  • Ø  / {C, #} _ R{C, #}

xm sable xm-/n sable-pl

spl wind spl-ank wind-loc

wtXz-x/al road-abl wtXz-enk road-loc


Paleo-Siberian (Bobaljik 1999)



  • a. t-tXzu-s-kitSen


‘I am standing’

  • b. eru-z-in


‘she gripes’

  • c. -qzu-z-in


‘she is’

  • d. t’-il:-s-kitSen


‘I am drinking’

  • e. il:-z-in


‘he drinks’

  • f. spl:-zi-in


‘it is windy’

  • Conclusion: epenthesis must be cyclic in verbs but noncyclic in nouns
  • OT deals with cyclic effects of this type via OO constraints
    • Problem: nouns have bare forms, verbs don’t; OOT  predicts opposite of what we find



qashgar uyghur
Qashgar Uyghur
  • Orgun 1996
  • Vowels raise in morpheme-final open syllables

kala ‘cow’ kal­a ‘cow­dative’

tuXa ‘chicken’ tuX­dan ‘chicken­ablative’

qazan ‘pot’ qazn­i ‘pot­possessive’

bala ‘child’ bal­si ‘child­possessive’

ana ‘mother’ an­lar ‘mother­plural’

ameriqa ‘America’ ameriq­da ‘America­locative’

qashgar uyghur1
Qashgar Uyghur
  • High vowels delete between two open syllables when flanked by identical consonants
    • qazn-i-ni® qaznni ‘pot-possessive-accusative’
  • The number of phonological cycles crucially depends on the morphological structure of the form:
    • i) qazan + i ® qazni
    • ii) qazan + ni ® qazanni
    • iii) qazan + i + ni ® qaznni (*qazanni) elision counterbleeds raising
    • iv) bala + lar ® ballar (*ballar) raising counterfeeds elision
    • v) bala + lar + i ® ballri (*ballri) raising feeds elision
    • vi) bala + lar + ni ® ballarni raising feeds elision
    • vii) bala + lar + i + ni ® ballrni raising feeds elision
    • viii) ana + ni ® anni (*anni) raising counterfeeds elision
qashgar uyghur2
Qashgar Uyghur
  • raising counterfeeds deletion on the cycle
  • if raising feeds elision if raising counterfeeds elision
  • M: bala + lar + ni bala + lar bala + lar + ni bala + lar
  • W: bal + lar + ni bal + lar bal + lar + ni bal + lar
  • P: bal + lar + ni *bal + lar *bal + lar + ni bal + lar

‘pot­poss­acc’ ‘child­pl­acc’ ‘child­pl’

  • Cycle 1 input qazan­i bala­lar bala­lar
  • output qazn­i bal­lar bal­lar
  • Cycle 2 input qazni­ni ballar­ni —
  • output qazn­ni ballar­ni —

Surface [qaznni] [ballarni] [ballar]

  • The fatal flaw in the Harmonic Phonology approach is that every form undergoes the same number of applications of phonology, regardless of the morphological structure.
  • Alignment does not give us a way to analyze these data noncyclically, since the accusative suffix ­ni adds nothing to the environment for elision; all it does is cause an additional phonological cycle.
  • V  Ø / VC _ + CV
    • yimaka ‘teach’ yimak-lu ‘teaching’
    • xipalu ‘sweet potato’ n-xipal-ne ‘my sweet potato’
  • some suffixes (e.g. verbal theme formative -ta, abstract noun formative -nu) don’t trigger deletion:
    • hata-ta ‘to illuminate’ vs. hat-nu ‘light, shining’
    • heta-nu ‘going to see’ vs. het-lu ‘to see it’
  • Though -ta and -nu fail to trigger V-deletion, they regularly undergo it:
    • yono-t-na-wa ‘to paint oneself’
    • heta-n-ru ‘going to see him’
  • How to account for this type of phenomenon?

Arawakan, Peru (Matteson 1965, Kenstowicz and Kisseberth 1977:397-8)

  • Proposal in 70s Derivational Phonology: have both trigger and target diacritics (Dell and Selkirk 1976, Kenstowicz and Kisseberth 1977)

UR /hata-nu/ /heta-nu/ /heta-nu-ru/

[-triggerdel] [-triggerdel]

V-del. — — —

V-del. hat-nu — —

V-del. — — heta-n-ru

SR [hatnu] [hetanu] [hetanru]

cycle 1

cycle 2

cycle 3

  • Another possibility: deletion cyclic, exceptional morphemes non-cyclic (a la Halle-Vergnaud 1987)
  • Can this effect be captured in a monostratal model?
    • Featural prespecification
    • Cophonologies specified by individual morphemes
  • OT predicts only the (odd) Lakhota effect (Patterson ‘88):
    • K TS/ i [stem _ V in active transitive verbs

khute to shoot

ma-khute he shoots at me

ni-tShute he shoots at you

tShi-tShute I shoot at you

b. benefactive suffix ki- does not trigger palatalization (142)

khuwa to chase

kaa to make

ki-khuwa he chased it for him

ki-kaa he made it for him

c. If benefactive itself undergoes palatalization, it triggers palatalization

khuwa to chase

wa-ki-khuwa I chased it for him

ni-tSi-tSHuwa he chased it for you

segmental exceptionality
Segmental exceptionality
  • Assume, for example, that a hypothetical language has a rule of palatalization before front vowels, but also has a morpheme -aki- that is specified as an exception to this rule.
  • Can OT account for a form such as kyikar-aki (as opposed to *[kyikarakyi]) without recourse to levels of derivation?
    • Harmonic Serialism? (discussed later)
variable rules
Variable rules
  • Guy 1991, etc.; Bayley 1997
    • greater incidence of cluster reduction in monomorphemes (past) than in bimorphemes (passed)
    • t/d deletion treated as variable cyclic rule
    • prediction: exponential relation between rates of deletion in monomorphemes, semiweak verbs (leave/left), and regular past tense verbs
summary of ot problems with staged processes
Summary of OT problems with staged processes
  • Fail to generalize over all cyclic effects
    • Kager's analysis of iterative unstressed vowel deletion
    • Alderete's analysis of Russian stress
  • Predicts the existence of effects where affixes determine the selection of roots, and other anti-cyclic effects
  • Cannot generate level-internal iterativity (Abkhaz)
  • Cannot produce exponential effect of variable rules
  • Affixes and rules fall into two classes in English and many other languages
    • easily captured with [cyclic] and/or levels
    • monostratal OT has to stipulate many different rerankings
can ot be repaired
Can OT be repaired?
  • One possibility: a form of serial evaluation that proceeds segment-by-segment through a word
    • Requires that all candidates be evaluated one segment at a time
      • Not always obvious which segments in a given pair of candidates are to be compared (e.g. in candidates with epenthesis or deletion)
      • Would wrongly rule out candidates with early violations in favor of other candidates with more but later violations
    • Encounters problems with chain shifts and other opacity effects (McCarthy 1999)
    • see Riggle, Local Optionality, for further OT discussion
  • Conclusion: OT does not provide a satisfactory account for all types of staged/iterative effects:
    • The phonological component must refer to abstract intermediate stages of derivation.
    • It is not enough to posit levels à la LPMOT; Abkhaz shows that intermediate stages of computation based solely on segmental context are also required, and Uyghur shows that cycles have to refer to morphemes, not more general levels.
sequential iterativity
Sequential iterativity
  • If rules can be [optional] and [iterative], we predict the existence of a nuanced type of optionality wherein both options can appear within a single word
    • Without these variables (e.g. in OT) we predict only all-or-nothing optionality, as in Warao labial voicing (Howard 1972:87): /p/ optionally surfaces as [b], but if it does then all p’s in the word must surface as [b] ([papa] ~ [baba] (*[paba]))
  • Optional allophony in free variation
    • English reduced vowel [V] ~ [] ~ []
      • Predictions for Winnepesaukee:
        • DP: [wInIpIski] ~ [wInIpski] ~ [wInpIski] ~ [wInpski]
        • OT: [wInIpIski] ~ [wInpski]
    • flapping, glottalization in English
      • sentimentality [sERmEntHQlRi] ~ [sEntHmEntHQlRi] ~ [sERmEntHQltHi]
  • Optional r-deletion in English
    • Marv Albert produced [hp] for Harper
    • Bostonian anthropologist produced [mdd] for murdered
  • Optional s-epenthesis in Dominican Spanish (Núñez Cedeño 1988)
    • Ø  s / _ ]s (optional, structure-preserving)
    • /abogado/ ‘lawyer’  asbogado, abosgado, abogasdo, abogados
french schwa deletion
French schwa deletion
  •  Ø / V (#) C _, LR , optional across #
  • envie de te le demander ‘feel like asking you’ (1980:225)
    • ãvidtldmãde
    • ãvidtldmãde
    • ãvidtldmãde
    • ãvidtldmãde
    • ãvidtldmãde
    • ãvidtldmãde
    • ãvidtldmãde
    • ãvidtldmãde
  • Same for English u  , as in did you not try to smile (18)
  • Howard 1972:140: this effect can’t be derived in the simultaneous application theory of SPE (we can say the same for OT)

Dell, François. 1980. Generative phonology and French phonology. Cambridge University Press.

  • Iterativity and optionality play important roles in all known phonological systems.
  • Theories of harmonic parallelism such as Optimality Theory can simulate certain iterative and optional effects, but:
    • These simulations do not reflect our intuitions about what is involved in these processes;
    • They cannot account for certain important types of iterativity and optionality.
  • All theories have strong and weak points, but this is a major problem for OT because:
    • Iterativity and optionality are general classes of phenomena that play a central role in human language; they are not isolated data sets in individual languages to be explained away as “noise”;
    • The conceptual appeal of OT lies in its avoidance of abstract intermediate stages of derivation, but these are shown to be necessary and central to the grammar.
  • A rule-based derivational model of phonology and morphology of the sort espoused in Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz 1993) generates the desired effects efficiently and insightfully.
  • When coupled with other severe problems with OT (e.g. opacity), the implication is clear: OT must be abandoned in favor of DP.
basic iterativity3
Basic iterativity
  • What if we incorporate a NoClash constraint?
    • (unless we somehow incorporate iterativity) it wrongly predicts the general headedness parameter (in this case Leftmost) to dictate direction of resolution: