LINGUIST List 8.695

Sat May 10 1997

Disc: Functionalism

Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar <>


  1. CHARLES REISS, Re: Question on functionalism
  2. Deborah Schmidt, OT functionalism

Message 1: Re: Question on functionalism

Date: Fri, 9 May 1997 20:39:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Question on functionalism

On Fri, 9 May 1997, Robert Kirchner wrote (LINGUIST 8.693):

> I'm assuming that the markedness of [pt] clusters does not lie in the fact
> that they're harder to articulate than [pt], but that they're harder to
> perceive. [pt] has the lip and tongue tip closure gestures of the [pt],
> and in addition, presumably a glottal adduction gesture, to get the vocal
> folds vibrating for some interval between the two glottal abductions of the
> [p] and [t]. Any gesture is more effortful than no gesture; since [pt] is
> gesturally equivalent to [pt], plus containing the glottal adduction, we
> can plausibly conclude [pt] is more effortful than [pt]. 

Doesn't this view run into to trouble for those who claim that CV
syllables are less marked that syllables lacking onsets? If so, then in
such a case, no gesture is *more* effortful than an onset consonant
gesture, apparently.

 Kirchner continues: 
> I agree with Mark Hale that
> perceptability factors play an important role in shaping sound patterns
> (contra Reiss's initial claim that functional notions explain nothing); but
> in OT these factors need not be viewed as external to the grammar.

I think this misrepresents my claims. One can obviously believe in the
role of perception in shaping the sound patterns of languages (as John
Ohala has discussed in numerous papers) without accepting the
functionalist arguments that acquirers *want* to simplify the grammar,
rather than acquire the one they are exposed to.

Furthermore, it seems to me that there is nothing inherently
'functionalist' about OT. OT itself is just a theory of constaint

Charles Reiss
Department of Classics Modern Languages and Linguistics
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve W.
Montreal,3G 1M8 H3G 1M
514 848-2310 (office)
514 848-8679 (fax)
514 598-1991 (home)

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Message 2: OT functionalism

Date: Sat, 10 May 97 09:11:06 EDT
From: Deborah Schmidt <>
Subject: OT functionalism

In his most recent posting(LINGUIST 8.693), Robert Kirchner proposes
that, in OT, articulatory and perceptability factors need not be
viewed as external to the grammar, since the interaction of these and
other factors IS the grammar.

If so, then there can be no phonological representations, not even
virtual ones, since phonological representations would interrupt any
direct link between the grammar and the physics of articulation and

 Debbie Schmidt University of Georgia
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