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Dissertation Information

Title: Towards a Computer Model of the Historical Phonology and Morphology of Latin Add Dissertation
Author: Philip Roberts Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Oxford, D.Phil. in Linguistics
Completed in: 2012
Linguistic Subfield(s): Computational Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Morphology; Phonology;
Subject Language(s): Latin
Director(s): Aditi Lahiri
Andreas Willi

Abstract: Research projects in Optimality Theory tend to take a synchronic view of a
particular generalisation, and set their standards for rigour in
typological terms (see for example Suzuki 1998 on dissimilation, Crosswhite
2001 on vowel reduction). The goal of this thesis is to use Stratal OT to
take a diachronic view of multiple generalisations within the
morpho-phonology of one language, namely Latin, with the principal
empirical aim of producing an analysis that is demonstrably true to all the
attested facts of the generalisations in question.

To that end, I have written PyOT, a computer program implementing the OT
calculus and a theory of phonological representations, which I use in this
work to model the histories of Lachmann’s Law, rhotacism and the
phonologically conditioned allomorphy of the -alis/aris- suffix as active
generalisations within the phonological component of the grammar. Appendix
A gives the results of the computer model applied to a dataset consisting
of 185 attested Latin forms, which suffice to illustrate the exact
conditions of the generalisations in question.

I show that producing a complete analysis of the three generalisations I
have chosen to model entails analysis of other generalisations that
interact with them, including the treatment of the Indo-European voiced
aspirates in Latin (which interacts with rhotacism), and reduplication in
forming perfect stems (which interacts with Lachmann’s Law). Constraint
rankings sufficient to model these interactions, and consistent with the
general conditions of the interacting generalisations have been included in
the model.

The intention is for this work to illustrate both the utility of formal
phonological theory in advancing hypotheses within historical-comparative
linguistics, and the potential of PyOT as a tool for producing
Optimality-Theoretic models of (eventually) a language’s entire phonology.