Licensing and Underspecification in Optimality Theory


This article seeks to resolve one sort of underspecification paradox, by harnessing the notions of constraint ranking and violability provided by Optimality Theory (OT). Though output underspecification is maintained, it does not pattern in the all-or-nothing way predicted by known theories; further, it is an emergent property of the grammar, leading to rejection of the traditional reliance on feature minimization in underlying representations, a notion that is not compatible with OT's output-oriented perspective. The empirical focus is on nasal-obstruent (NC) voicing in Japanese; major issues addressed include feature licensing, the hypothesis that segment similarity constrains feature interaction, and the relation between output forms and underlying representations.


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