A crucial point in Well’s argumentation against static approaches to alternation comes from Latin. Interestingly, his point seems to argue at the same time against rule ordering, although neither Wells nor Goldsmith mention this point.
In Latin, pat-tus becomes passus and met-tus becomes messus. This is very difficult to understand in a ‘static’ way (Wells even calls this ‘fatal’, as Goldsmith points out), for instance by only using output constraints. We cannot invoke a constraint *ts and/or a constraint *st, because words such as etsi and este stay unaffected. Only /t/’s which are adjacent to underlying /t/’s turn into [s]. As far as I can see, the only OT mechanism ever proposed which could do this kind of analysis are two-level constraints (which I don’t think anybody is seriously working with).
On the other hand, we can deal with this phenomenon in a ‘dynamic’ way, by positing rules of the following type:
- t->s / _ + t
- t->s / t + _
But we can only do this if we do not order these rules, but let them apply simultaneously. As soon as we order the rules they do not work, or the etsi/este problem arises again. That is the reason why the two-level constraint approach to this is the only one which works as far as I can see: Sympathy, Stratal OT, Comparative Markedness, OT-CC, etc. are all too ‘derivational’.
There also is no clear representational solution (changing a geminate /t/ to a geminate [s], leaving singletons unaffected), since it seems to be a crucial condition that there is a morpheme boundary between the /t/’s.
These thus are very important data, if they are real. Does anybody know about this? Has anybody ever tried to analyze this alternation?
This is a follow up to a quick comment I left in the Reading Group thread. I am not entirely up on the history of the field, so maybe these points are trivial. If so, excuse me.
I found the discussion of rule ordering in section 5 to be interesting. There seem to be a couple of issues that popped up with regard to rule ordering in the 1940s. One is historicity–how seriously are we going to take the time/motion metaphor? Another is the issue of primacy–if a, b, and c are derivable from one source, which one, if any, is primary? And a third is Harris’ claim that extrinsic rule ordering masks natural relationships between classes of derivations.
The first and last issues seem especially interesting after the Mr. Verb Kerfluffle. One of the things that was suggested there was that if you have rules, rule ordering is natural. Goldsmith shows that for some phonologists in the 1940s, rule ordering wasn’t a natural step at all. And it seems to me that a lot of phonology after SPE was concerned with addressing that last bit–making the rule ordering natural (there might be something about the Elsewhere Condition here, but I don’t feel qualified to talk about it).
What put me in mind of the richness of the base (RoB) was the middle part about primacy. RoB is the OT claim that the set of possible inputs to the grammar is universal, thus getting rid of the issue of primacy. In the hypothetical case of a, b, and c the grammar has to make sure that whatever the input /a/, /b/, /c/, etc., nothing maps to b in an environment where b is disallowed. Although RoB doesn’t rule out the use of archiphonemes (or underspecification) it does make them seem unneccesary since you can construct a grammar that will always map a and b to c in the appropriate context for example.
Last week I suggested some of us read and discuss John Goldsmith‘s recent paper in Phonology 25.1 (“Generative phonology in the late 1940s“, doi:10.1017/S0952675708001395). I’m not really sure what’s the best way to go about this, so I’ll just suggest the following: anyone interested can pick a point of discussion and write a post about it, and anyone interested in responding to that point can comment specifically on that post.
OK, now that I’ve written that out, that just sounds like plain old blogging. I guess what I’m trying to suggest is that we don’t limit the discussion to just one post and its associated comments: if the point of discussion that you want to pick is sufficiently different from what’s already been posted, then I encourage you to start a new post rather than to comment on the old one. We can maybe tie all the threads together later.
OK, that still just sounds like plain old blogging. Forget I ever said anything. Let’s just move on to my (first?) suggested point of discussion, focusing on §2 of the paper (pp. 40-42 of the published version, pp. 4-6 of the preprint).
Continue reading →
In my last post I mentioned wanting to read the following paper just published in Phonology:
Generative phonology in the late 1940s (pp 37 – 59)
John A. Goldsmith
I’ve now read it, and I’d like to suggest that the two or three people who might be reading these words read it, too, so we can have a little online discussion about it. If you don’t have access to the journal, you can find a pre-print here (a quick skim reveals it to be about 95% identical in content to the published version). You might also want to heed the encouragement that Goldsmith offers in the next-to-last paragraph:
Needless to say, I encourage the reader to read Wells’ paper for himself, and to judge whether it is not a cautious and careful exegesis of the benefits that can be reaped from derivational analysis, aimed at an audience that was leery of confusing synchronic and diachronic analysis. As a phonologist working at the beginning of the 21st century, I would argue that we should not characterise the work of linguists such as Wells, Harris and Hockett as the last gasp of a dying structuralism, but as a body of scholarship out of which generative phonology was a natural development.
Surely this conclusion is reasonable and, ultimately, not at all surprising. My admiration for generative phonology is in no way diminished by the realisation that its key ideas were being considered and developed by the mid 1940s. It is, after all, the ideas that matter to us now.
(And if that JSTOR link doesn’t work for ya, try this.)
OK, we’ll reconvene sometime next week. I’ll plan to start, but if anyone feels like chiming in before I do, please feel free.