LINGUIST List 10.473

Tue Mar 30 1999

Books: Phonology

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>

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  1. Damon Zucca, Optimality Theoretic Treatment of Phonological Asymmetries

Message 1: Optimality Theoretic Treatment of Phonological Asymmetries

Date: 29 Mar 99 11:50:13 +0000
From: Damon Zucca <>
Subject: Optimality Theoretic Treatment of Phonological Asymmetries

Beckman, Jill N.; Positional Faithfulness: An Optimality Theoretic
Treatment of Phonological Asymmetries; 0-8153-3348-X, cloth; 320
pages, $69; Garland Publishing; Outstanding Dissertations in

In many of the world's languages, segments which appear in
perceptually of psycholinguistically prominent positions such as
initial syllables, stressed syllables, and syllable onsets exhibit
privileged phonological behavior. This privileged behavior is
manifested three ways: triggering of phological processes, blocking of
phonological processes, and licensing of phonological contrasts not
found in other positions.

This book examines these diverse segmental asymmetries, using
Optimality Theory, a constraint-based approach to generative grammar,
as an analytic tool. The central claim of the study is that the
phonological asymmetries associated with prominence derive from
high-ranking "positional faithfulness" constraints, which prevent
phonological alteration in prominent positions. A grammar enriched
with positional faithfulness constraints can not only generate the
range of asymmetries attested in natural language phonology, but also
explain the absence of logically possible, but unattested, patterns of
positional behavior.

After introducing the notion of positional privilege, the author
presents a series of case studies in which positional faithfulness
constraints play a key role. These include coda devoicing, place
assimilation, unstressed vowel reduction, nasal harmony and vowel


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