Opacity is ubiquitous in human language, and earlier theories of phonology could deal with it easily. It’s hard to see why those advantages have been abandoned for an approach that can’t handle opacity without lots of gymnastics, if at all, for benefits that don’t look all that great.Here are the challenges:
- OT is by definition monostratal.
- OT requires “lots of gymnastics” to account for opacity, while SPE doesn’t.
- SPE(-and-subsequent-developments) “could deal with [opacity] easily”.
- The benefits of OT over SPE “don’t look all that great”.
Farmer Jones got out of his car and while heading for his friend's door, noticed a pig with a wooden leg. His curiosity roused, he asked, "Fred, how'd that pig get him a wooden leg?"This Phonoloblog post is kinda like that pig … so good you don't want to eat it all at once. Let's take the first of those four legs for now: parallelism versus serialism. Eric writes this below his list of challenges:
"Well, Michael, that's a mighty special pig! A while back a wild boar attacked me while I was walking in the woods. That pig there came a runnin', went after that boar and chased him away. Saved my life!"
"And the boar tore up his leg?"
"No he was fine after that. But a bit later we had that fire. Started in the shed up against the barn. Well, that ole pig started squealin' like he was stuck, woke us up, and 'fore we got out here, the darn thing had herded the other animals out of the barn and saved 'em all!"
"So that's when he hurt his leg, huh, Fred?"
"No, Michael. He was a might winded, though. When my tractor hit a rock and rolled down the hill into the pond I was knocked clean out. When I came to, that pig had dove into the pond and dragged me out 'fore I drownded. Sure did save my life."
"And that was when he hurt his leg?"
"Oh no, he was fine. Cleaned him up, too."
"OK, Fred. So just tell me. How did he get the wooden leg?"
"Well", the farmer tells him, "A pig like that, you don't want to eat it all at once!"
I’m pretty sure that it’s safe to assume that “earlier theories of phonology” refers to serial, rule-based generative phonology in the SPE-and-subsequent-developments sense, and that “any monostratal theory (one without stages of derivation)” and “an approach that can’t handle opacity without lots of gymnastics, if at all” refers to Optimality Theory. Correct me if I’m wrong.My formulation refers not to OT but to "monostratal approaches". (I mention OT in a broader connection earlier in the post. Elsewhere on this blog I've used the term 'mainstream OT' specifically to mean monostratal OT.) Such approaches include 'classic OT', Declarative Phonology, and others; it's of course all monostratal approaches but not all OT approaches that have trouble with opacity. So, the first challenge seems to be a misunderstanding.
Eric continues with the details of Challenge 1:
1. OT is by definition monostratal.It's true enough to say that stratal OT was mentioned as possible early on (including by Prince & Smolensky 1993), but it's not simply that it wasn't followed up on: A major theme in classic OT has been that serial derivation was a really bad idea, from P&S '93 up until almost the present day.* It's not hard to find places where Optimality Theorists appear to conflate parallel evaluation and OT, though, like in this quote from P&S 1993:137 [in the ROA version]:
In both published papers and (perpetually) forthcoming books, Paul Kiparsky and Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero — and many others, certainly — have developed and argued for a marriage between the basic assumption of Lexical Phonology and Morphology (that a grammar is multistratal) and the basic assumption of Optimality Theory (that an input-output mapping is defined by applying a ranked constraint hierarchy to a set of candidate outputs derived from the input). (The possibility of such a marriage was suggested, but not followed up on, in McCarthy & Prince (1993).)
When all of the relevant constraints are assessed in parallel, as in Optimality Theory, an entire completed parse is subject to evaluation. … [A] number of further cases of crucial parallelism are discussed in McCarthy & Prince 1993. The crux of the matter is that the grammar must determine which total analysis is wellformed a task impeded by the use of serial algorithms to build structure step-by-step.That's Part I, too much thinking for one day. But there's plenty more meat on this pig!
* I've always liked the index entry in McCarthy's Thematic Guide: "serial derivation, problematic", with a string of page references.
Image from here, continuing the linguistics/music connection thing.