Skip to main content Accessibility help

Phonological typology in Optimality Theory and Formal Language Theory: goals and future directions

  • Joe Pater (a1)


Much recent work has studied phonological typology in terms of Formal Language Theory (e.g. the Chomsky hierarchy). This paper considers whether Optimality Theory grammars might be constrained to generate only regular languages, and also whether the tools of formal language theory might be used for constructing phonological theories similar to those within Optimality Theory. It offers reasons to be optimistic about the first possibility, and sceptical about the second.


Corresponding author


Hide All

Thank you to the Spring 2019 UMass Amherst Sound Workshop for discussion, especially to Andrew Lamont, who also provided comments on a draft of this manuscript. This research was supported by NSF grants BCS-1424077 and BCS-1650957 to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.



Hide All
Archangeli, Diana & Pulleyblank, Douglas (1994). Grounded phonology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Chomsky, Noam (1980). On cognitive structures and their development. In Piatelli-Palmarini, Massimo (ed.) Language and learning: the debate between Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky. London: Routledge & Kegan. 3654.
Chomsky, Noam & Halle, Morris (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.
Eisner, Jason (1997). What constraints should OT allow? Handout from paper presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, Chicago. Available as ROA-204 from the Rutgers Optimality Archive.
Frank, Robert & Satta, Giorgio (1998). Optimality theory and the generative complexity of constraint violability. Computational Linguistics 24. 307315.
Hayes, Bruce (1980). A metrical theory of stress rules. PhD dissertation, MIT.
Hayes, Bruce (1995). Metrical stress theory: principles and case studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Heinz, Jeffrey (2007). The inductive learning of phonotactic patterns. PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
Jardine, Adam (2016). Computationally, tone is different. Phonology 33. 247283.
Jardine, Adam (2019). Computation also matters: a response to Pater (2018). Phonology 36. 341350.
Johnson, C. Douglas (1972). Formal aspects of phonological description. The Hague & Paris: Mouton.
Lamont, Andrew (2019). Majority Rule in Harmonic Serialism. In Hout, Katherine, Mai, Anna, McCollum, Adam, Rose, Sharon & Zaslansky, Matt (eds.) Supplemental proceedings of the 2018 Annual Meeting on Phonology.
McCarthy, John J. (2000). Harmonic serialism and parallelism. NELS 30. 501524.
Potts, Christopher, Pater, Joe, Jesney, Karen, Bhatt, Rajesh & Becker, Michael (2010). Harmonic Grammar with linear programming: from linear systems to linguistic typology. Phonology 27. 77117.
Prince, Alan & Smolensky, Paul (2004). Optimality Theory: constraint interaction in generative grammar. Malden, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed