This book describes Optimality Theory from the top down, explaining and exploring the central premises of OT and the results of their praxis. Examples are drawn from phonology, morphology, and syntax, but the emphasis throughout is on the theory rather than the examples, on understanding what is special about OT and on equipping readers to apply it, extend it, and critique it in their own areas of interest. To enhance the book's usefulness for researchers in allied disciplines, the topdown view of OT extends to work on first- and second-language acquisition, phonetics and functional phonology, computational linguistics, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics. Furthermore, to situate OT for those coming from other traditions, this book also contains much discussion of OT's intellectual origins, its predecessors, and its contemporary competitors. Each chapter concludes with extensive suggestions for further reading, classified by topics, and supplemented by a massive bibliography (over 800 items). The book ends with a list of frequently asked questions about Optimality Theory, with brief answers and pointers to a fuller treatment in the text.