Computing Vowel Harmony: The Generative Capacity of Search & Copy

Samuel Andersson, Hossep Dolatian, Yiding Hao


Search & Copy (S&C) is a procedural model of vowel harmony in which underspecified vowels trigger searches for targets that provide them with features. In this paper, we seek to relate the S&C formalism with models of phonological locality proposed by recent work in the subregular program. Our goal is to provide a formal description, within the framework of mathematical linguistics, of the range of possible phonological transformations that admit an analysis within S&C. We show that used in its unidirectional mode, all transformations described by an S&C analysis can be modeled by tier-based input strictly local functions (TISL). This result improves the previous result of Gainor et al 2012, which showed that vowel harmony processes can be modeled by subsequential functions. However, non-TISL transformations can be given S&C descriptions in the following ways. Firstly, since TISL functions are not closed under composition, a non-TISL vowel harmony pattern may be obtained by applying two S&C rules sequentially. Secondly, when S&C is used in its bidirectional mode, it has the ability to describe transformations that cannot be modeled by finite-state functions.


vowel harmony; search & copy; finite state phonology; computaitonal phonology; tier; locality; computational complexity; generative capacity

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Copyright (c) 2020 Samuel Andersson, Hossep Dolatian, Yiding Hao

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