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home > Optimality Theory and Language Change

Optimality Theory and Language Change
― The Activation of Potential Constraint Interactions ―

Nobuyo Fukaya
First published:
2010 / 10 / 22
Price (in Japan only):
6,000 yen (Tax Not Included) (320 pages)


The purpose of this book is to present the syntactic development of English word order within Optimality Theory (OT) and to contribute not only to OT but also to other fields. OT, which was first proposed in phonology, has been applied to various fields including syntax, morphology, language acquisition, and so on. OT linguists have attempted to analyze language variation and language change by re-ranking a set of constraints, though little attention has been paid to the mechanism of constraint re-ranking.

This book also addresses the important and interesting question of how re-ranking takes place. To answer this question, this work examines how constraints interact with each other, using constraints already proposed in phonology and syntax. Based on a detailed examination, the present study defines constraint interaction, which is of the utmost importance in OT, though it has not yet been discussed carefully.

Furthermore, this study proposes that constraint interactions should be divided into two types: potential constraint interactions and active constraint interactions. Different rankings that consist of the same constraints show that active constraint interactions may vary according to the grammar involved. This research proposes an algorithm based on constraint interaction that allows re-ranking to take place only when the constraint interaction between two constraints is activated under the ranking in question. This algorithm makes it possible for one constraint to jump over another when they are not actively interacting with each other. This proposal is illustrated and tested by means of an analysis of English word order change.

Nobuyo FUKAYA belongs to Tsuda College in Tokyo, Japan.

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