3. SPE(-and-subsequent-developments) “could deal with [opacity] easily”.Eric adds, in a comment on the last post:
The point of that is to say that derived environment effects are cases of opacity that can't be easily handled by rule ordering alone.The person I originally paraphrased had given simple opacity examples, like Canadian Raising. But we can expand the notion to include derived environment effects (DEE). And they do go beyond what's directly predicted and handled automatically by rule ordering alone. I'm not sure that changes much from part II: Classic opacity from the interaction of postlexical rules is predicted by and falls out automatically from generative phonology. By contrast, Baković (2007:220) quotes McCarthy on this:
Unless further refinements are introduced, OT cannot contend successfully with any non-surface-apparent generalizations, nor with a reside of non-surface-true-generalizations.But are these mere 'refinements'? Simple constraint ranking as a way of getting optimal forms is one thing, while allowing conjunction among constraints (like other similar refinements) vastly changes and complicates OT's basic mechanics. Some old-school linguists who are waiting for the theory bus to turn the corner are left scratching their heads as to why OT crucially relies on gymnastic moves precisely where one shouldn't.
In traditional phonology, it's when we get to how morphology interacts with phonology, as in prototypical DEE, that we need additional tools. You need nothing fancy to handle purely phonological opacity, but you might where phonology and morphology meet.
Having read "A revised typology of opaque generalizations", I see why Eric got so bent over a quip that opacity is easy in earlier models and hard for OT: His article aims to debunk precisely this view. It's a balanced account, where everybody has trouble with some types of opacity and can handle others. Still, the problems he hangs around the neck of traditional models are quite different from those OT faces (above). Eric concedes that Vaux's non-OT analysis of New Julka Armenian is "technically true" (p. 246), but Vaux "presents no specific arguments for this ordering analysis, empirical or otherwise". Vaux's ordering produces the right output, while the reverse ordering does not. It's not that a traditional analysis won't work, but that Eric doesn't find it sufficiently motivated?
Eric was right that I was going to skirt Challenge III, and I appreciate him prodding me. As hinted at above, I wonder if he isn't onto something about how phonology-morphology interactions appear more contortion-prone than plain phonology. When students gripe about the drivel they claim to get from their phonology or morphology profs (apologies to the peerage), often it is over such resultant interactions (or what happens to newbie sounds trying to squat on derivational territory occupied by old sounds at stem's edge). But what's odd about the phon-morph relation is that students often take a different approach from paid phonologists: They're content to load the lexicon, a Third Way of the Declarative Phonology sort. Correct me on this, not being a phonologist and all, but serial models of sound systems seem not to miss cross-lexicon generalizations brought about by loading the lexicon nor to create unnecessary problems by restructuring the nature of constraint evaluation.
With those questions tossed out there and with my flame retardant suit on, I'll leave this for now, but will return to Challenge IV soon, and maybe even a postscript after that. I'm just trying to figure this stuff out.
3. SPE(-and-subsequent-developments) “could deal with [opacity] easily”.Image from here.
Although it is conveniently hardly ever talked about in this way, ‘derived environment effects’ are precisely cases of opacity that cannot be “dealt with easily” in SPE, by which I mean that rule ordering on its own won’t do the trick. Consider the classic Finnish assibilation case (whether or not you believe it): t → s / __i, but “only in derived environments”. Let’s stick to phonologically-derived environments here: assibilation does not apply to underlying /ti…/, because no part of the structural description of assibilation is derived; assibilation does apply to /…te/, because there is another rule raising word-final /e/ to [i], which means that this part of the structural description of assibilation is derived by raising. (So: /ti…/ → [ti…], but /…te/ → |…ti| → […si].)
Several things to note here. First, this is a case of opacity of Kiparsky’s (1973) “Type (i)”: assibilation is not surface-true, because there are surface strings of the kind that match the structural description of assibilation (to wit, [ti…]). Second, although many examples of non-surface-truth can be accounted for with counterfeeding rule ordering, this kind of case cannot, which is why some separate principle(s) responsible for derived environment effects are necessary — hence my conclusion that SPE does not, in fact, “deal with [opacity] easily” in the way Mr. Verb’s summer-upper and many others claim. Third, how does the distinction between ‘derived’ and ‘non-derived’ require any less “gymnastics” than the one between ‘new’ and ‘old’ markedness constraint violations, the basic idea behind comparative markedness? I’d really like to know.