Long-Distance Phonotactics as Tier-Based Strictly 2-Local Languages

Kevin McMullin, Gunnar Ólafur Hansson


This paper shows that the properties of locality observed for patterns of long-distance consonant agreement and disagreement belong to a well-defined and relatively simple class of subregular formal languages (stringsets) called the Tier-based Strictly 2-Local languages, and argues that analyzing them as such has desirable theoretical implications. Specifically, treating the two elements of a long-distance dependency as adjacent segments on the computationally defined notion of a tier allows for a unified account of locality that necessarily extends to the cross-linguistically variable behavior of neutral segments (transparency and blocking). This result is significant in light of the long-standing and persistent problems that long-distance dependencies have raised for phonological theory, with current approaches still predicting several pathological patterns that have little or no empirical support.


Locality; Consonant Harmony; Dissimilation; Agreement by Correspondence; Computational Complexity

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/amp.v2i0.3750

Copyright (c) 2016 Kevin McMullin and Gunnar Ólafur Hansson