Phonological argumentation

Phonological argumentation: Essays on evidence and motivation. Ed. by Steve Parker. (Advances in optimality theory.) London: Equinox, 2010. Pp. x, 377. ISBN 9781845532215. $45.

Reviewed by Stuart Davis, Indiana University

This volume is the fourth in Equinox’s Advances in optimality theory, the major outlet for monographs on optimality theory (OT). The volume contains an introduction plus eleven chapters divided into two parts: Phonological argumentation and the bases of optimality theory (Part 1) and Case studies in phonological argumentation (Part 2). The editor and all the authors are either students of John McCarthy or closely connected with him. The introduction has personal comments about McCarthy by several of the contributors.

Space limitations allow discussion of only a few of the chapters from an analytic perspective. Ch. 1, ‘Grammar is both categorical and gradient’ by Andries Coetzee, combines experimental work with formal OT showing that speakers have judgments on preferences for nonwords (e.g. English *[skVk] nonwords are preferable to *[spVp] nonwords). He concludes that speakers access grammar in both a categorical and gradient manner and that grammar is not just a projection of lexical statistics.  Ch. 5, ‘Morpheme-specific phonology: Constraint indexation and inconsistency resolution’ by Joe Pater, makes a compelling case for lexically-indexed constraints (both markedness and faithfulness) as more advantageous than a cophonology approach or one where only faithfulness constraints can be indexed.

Ch. 6, ‘Source similarity in loanword adaptation: Correspondence theory and the posited source-language representation’ by Jennifer Smith, takes a middle ground between phonological and perceptual viewpoints on loanword adaptation, allowing for the formal phonology to determine the output of loanword forms while permitting influence from such factors as orthography and perception of the source acoustic form. Smith posits an SB correspondence relation, where S is the source language form as represented by the speaker of the borrowing language and B is the output of the borrowed form. The S form, however, can consider factors such as orthography and second language perception. Since SB faithfulness constraints are ranked amongst input-output (IO) faithfulness constraints, Smith can account for the common phenomenon whereby loanwords witness a different repair strategy from native words.

Two articles stand out in Part 2: ‘The onset of the prosodic word’ by Junko Itô and Armin Mester (Ch. 9) and ‘Infixation as morpheme absorption’ by Ania Łubowicz (Ch. 10). The former offers a comprehensive analysis of intrusive and linking-r as exemplified in Eastern New England saw-r-Ann and better off. One issue is how to account for the lack of intrusive –r after function words as in gonna eat where no [r] occurs before the vowel-initial content word, at least in the Eastern New England variety. Itô and Mester posit an onset constraint such that the maximal projection of the prosodic word cannot begin with a vowel. In gonna eat the word eat is not at the beginning of a maximal projection and so insertion does not occur, thus distinguishing this from saw Ann. The different facts in other English varieties are handled by constraint reranking.

Łubowicz examines cases in which single morphemes can surface as prefix or infix depending on whether there is an obligatory contour principle (OCP) violation. Łubowicz develops an OT analysis of morpheme absorption, whereby infixes are incorporated within roots and are subject to root-internal OCP constraints, but prefixes are not so incorporated. Of the chapters not discussed, Máire Ni Chiosáin and Jaye Padgett’s ‘Contrast, comparison sets, and the perceptual space’ (Ch. 4) is an important contribution offering a more traditional OT approach to dispersion theory.

In sum, this valuable volume reflects the many ways that John McCarthy has influenced the field.