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Linguistic Optimization

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Document pages: 38 pages

Abstract: Optimality Theory (OT) is a model of language that combines aspects of generative and connectionist linguistics. It is unique in the field in its use of a rank ordering on constraints, which is used to formalize optimization, the choice of the best of a set of potential linguistic forms. We show that phenomena argued to require ranking fall out equally from the form of optimization in OT s predecessor Harmonic Grammar (HG), which uses numerical weights to encode the relative strength of constraints. We further argue that the known problems for HG can be resolved by adopting assumptions about the nature of constraints that have precedents both in OT and elsewhere in computational and generative linguistics. This leads to a formal proof that if the range of each constraint is a bounded number of violations, HG generates a finite number of languages. This is nontrivial, since the set of possible weights for each constraint is nondenumerably infinite. We also briefly review some advantages of HG.

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