2. OT requires “lots of gymnastics” to account for opacity, while SPE doesn’t.The full text of the challenge is pasted in at the bottom of this post, for quick reference. Almost all of the comments that seem to have pissed people off were all paraphrases of things others had said, but the word gymnastics was actually my choice, so I should explain it. Here's part of what Merriam-Webster's 11th says about the word:
1 … b : a competitive sport in which individuals perform … acrobatic feats mostly on special apparatus …I guess I had parts of all those things in mind. (By the way, Dewey was talking about being inspired by Hegel's philosophy, "no mere intellectual formula".)
2 : an exercise in intellectual or artistic dexterity *my earlier philosophic study had been an intellectual gymnastic — John Dewey* *mental gymnastics*
3 : a physical feat or contortion …
In terms of fundamental architecture, theories with serial derivation can very comfortably handle cases like Canadian Raising or Tiberian Hebrew spirantization, where we have interactions among post-lexical rules. The rules are benignly learned independent of each other by the child, and ordered appropriately, perhaps without the help of opacity. The resultant opacity emerges from the particular rules and the particular ordering. The rules and ordering are boorish at best, but the interaction is sophisticated at worst. (It also mirrors how language change works, as Adam Ussishkin rightly noted.) Again, precisely this kind of pattern is common in language and easily handled, even predicted by a serial rule-based model. Additional conditions on the application of rules like structure preservation and the derived environment condition seem to represent refinements of our understanding of rule application. Maybe these refinements to rule application are gymnastics as Eric suggests but there hasn't been any improvement on the phenomena of structure preservation and derived environment effects produced by OT. So it would seem that we all need to be flexible.
In contrast, sympathy theory, comparative markedness and OT-CC really feel like gymnastics — using some special apparatus, needing dexterity and requiring contortion. To many people these feel like kludges that fail to fix a fundamental part of the basic architecture: 'classic OT' seems inherently ill-suited to garden-variety opacity. As exciting as many of us found OT in its early days, and while it provided new ways to think about some of the cases that rattled phonology through especially the '80s, early versions simply had no clean way of handling opacity — which triggered the string of contortions and acrobatics mentioned earlier. At that point, a number of people feared that we were looking at a great leap backwards: Even if the new approach could address the kinds of problems that arose with, say, late Lexical Phonology, to abandon a basic kind of approach that has served us well (since, what, Panini?), some linguists felt the new approach should have an honest way of dealing with a basic phenomenon the old approach could handle.
I'm not interested in declaring who's wrong or right; I'm just trying to understand how language works. But it seems like the people I paraphrased earlier had a point, even in light of Eric's comments: You just can't really compare some things that were "at some point or other brought to bear on opacity" with wholesale reworking of a theory to handle simple opacity.
Now that I look at challenge #3, it looks like basically the same as #2, so maybe I'll skip to #4. Stay tuned!
2. OT requires “lots of gymnastics” to account for opacity, while SPE doesn’t.Image of Contortion Girl from here. Pretty amazing contortion, I'd say.
But — I hear you object to what I just wrote above — by “monostratal” Mr. Verb must mean “non-serial within a lexical-phonological stratum”, and in that sense he’s basically right. John McCarthy is without a doubt the most visible proponent of OT who accepts that at least some legitimate cases of opacity are not reducible to cross-stratal interactions, and is also the one who has developed most of the proposals to amend ‘classic’ OT to accomodate such cases of opacity, in particular those that Mr. Verb specifically mentioned (sympathy theory and comparative markedness). McCarthy’s most recent proposal, OT-CC (see his book and some of his more recent papers on ROA), is likely to be viewed by critics as just so many more gymnastics (as opposed to a proposal that makes predictions that may be right or wrong).
But is SPE really any different in this regard? What about the transformational cycle, the Elsewhere Condition, structure preservation, the alternation condition, the strict cycle condition, and so on? Each of these developments within SPE was at some point or other brought to bear on opacity, whether to help account for cases of it or to constrain the power of ordered rules to generate particularly outlandish kinds of opacity (’Duke of York’ derivations and absolute neutralization being particularly well-beaten horses). I’d like to see someone explain how any these developments within SPE are not “lots of gymnastics” while some developments within OT are. (And I’m not brushing aside the interesting work done in the 80s that attempted to reduce some of the developments within SPE to others, though I don’t believe many of these attempts were particularly successful.)