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Positional licensing, asymmetric trade-offs and gradient constraints in Harmonic Grammar

  • Aaron Kaplan (a1)

In Harmonic Grammar, positional licensing interacts with faithfulness constraints in pathological ways: spreading a feature to a licensing position to satisfy positional licensing can incur many faithfulness violations, and if there are sufficiently many such violations, they gang up to block spreading. This problem is solved if positional licensing is recast as a positive constraint that rewards licensed features in proportion to the number of positions they are associated with, thereby countering faithfulness's multiple violations. This proposal provides support for positive constraints, calls into question arguments against gradient constraints and lays the groundwork for a sound theory of positional licensing in Harmonic Grammar.

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I am grateful to the following people for their insightful comments during the development of this work: Abby Kaplan, Wendell Kimper and Rachel Walker, and audiences at AMP 2015, the 37th Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) and the University of Utah. Thanks also to an associate editor and three anonymous reviewers at Phonology, whose comments greatly improved this paper.

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