Long-Distance Licensing in Harmonic Grammar

Aaron Kaplan


Positional Licensing constraints can compel a feature to spread to a prominent position such as a stressed syllable. In Harmonic Grammar, this spreading takes a pathological form: over long distances, spreading can be blocked because it would accumulate too many faithfulness violations. The result is an unattested system in which there is an arbitrary upper bound to the distance across which a feature can spread. This defect is remedied here by modifying Positional Licensing so that rather than simply assigning one violation for an unlicensed feature, it assigns violations in proportion to the distance between the feature and its licensor. It can therefore counter faithfulness regardless of the distance between trigger and target. This reformulation necessitates other changes to avoid new problems: Positional Licensing must reward licensed features instead of penalizing unlicensed ones, and it must be couched in Serial Harmonic Grammar. This result provides new support for those theoretical constructs, and it helps clarify the differences between OT and HG.


Harmonic Grammar; Positional Licensing; Vowel Harmony

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/amp.v3i0.3676

Copyright (c) 2016 Aaron Kaplan

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/