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Optimality Theory and variable word-final deletion in Faetar

  • Naomi Nagy (a1) and Bill Reynolds (a2)

Abstract

We examine a pattern of end-of-word deletion in Faetar, a Francoprovençal dialect spoken in southern Italy, considering synchronic variants like [brókələ] ˜ [brókəl] ˜ [brókə] ˜ [brok] ‘fork’. We use the word “deletion” as a synchronic description of the facts; speakers do not always phonetically produce everything in the input form, assuming that the input form is the longest form ever produced. Optimality Theory accounts for this type of variation by positing different rankings of the constraint hierarchy, each of which produces a different optimal output. The predication of alternate constraint rankings within a single dialect, however, poses problems for Optimality Theory as it has been formulated, necessitating numerous grammars for each speaker. We propose floating constraints (Reynolds, 1994), whereby some particular constraint within a single grammar may be represented as falling anywhere within a designated range in the ranking hierarchy. In a previous study (Reynolds & Nagy, 1994) we showed that this model accounts for the distribution of types of output forms produced. Here, we analyze a corpus of 624 tokens from 40 speakers and show that the pattern of distribution of tokens is accounted for as well: the number of rankings that produce each output form is closely correlated to the number of output forms that occur in the data set.

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Optimality Theory and variable word-final deletion in Faetar

  • Naomi Nagy (a1) and Bill Reynolds (a2)

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