External Links
Google Scholar
provided by
German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence
with support by
as well as by

Optimality Theory in Syntax

abbreviation(s): OT in Syntax
definition: Optimality Theory (OT) is a recent development in theoretical linguistics. OT deviates from more traditional linguistic frameworks in that it assumes grammatical constraints to be (a) universal, (b) violable, and (c) ranked. Assumption (a) means that constraints are maximally general, i.e., they contain no exceptions or disjunctions, and there is no parametrization across languages. Highly general constraints will inevitably conflict, therefore assumption (b) allows constraints to be violated, even in a grammatical structure, while assumption (c) stipulates that some constraint violations are more relevant than others. In this setting, a structure is grammatical if it is optimal in the sense of violating the least highly ranked constraints compared with other possible candidate structures. Which candidate is optimal depends on how the constraints in the grammar are ranked, thus crosslinguistic variation can be accounted for via variation in the constraint ranks. Optimality Theory is widely used in phonology, based on Prince and Smolensky's (1993) seminal work. In syntax, the OT paradigm is less popular, but there have been interesting attempts to combine OT with LFG. The OT literature also includes important computational contributions (especially as regards OT models of language acquisition).
related publication(s):

Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar.
Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University. 2. Technical Report. 1993.

Morphology Competes with Syntax: Explaining Typological Veriation in Weak Crossover Effects.
Joan Bresnan.

Optimal Syntax.
Joan Bresnan. 334--385.

Optimality Theory: Phonology, Syntax, and Acquisition.
Joost Dekkers and Frank van der Leeuw and Jeroen van de Weijer.
Oxford Univeristy Press. Oxford. 2000.

Projection, Heads, and Optimality.
Jane Grimshaw.
Linguistic Inquiry. 28. 1997. 373--422.

Optimality-theoretic Syntax.
G'eraldine Legendre and Jane Grimshaw and Sten Vikner.
MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 2000.

Is the Best Good Enough? Optimality and Competition in Syntax.
Pilar Barbosa and Danny Fox and Paul Hagstrom and Martha McGinnis and David Pesetsky.
MIT Press and MIT Working Papers in Linguistics. Cambridge, MA. 1998.

Formal and Empirical Issues in Optimality-theoretic Syntax.
Peter Sells.
CSLI Publications. Stanford, CA.2001.

Phonology Competes with Syntax: Experimental Evidence for the Interaction of Word Order and Accent Placement in the Realization of Information Structure.
Frank Keller and Theodora Alexopoulou.
Cognition. 79 (3). 2001. 301--372.

Learnability in Optimality Theory.
Bruce Tesar and Paul Smolensky.
LI. 29 (2). 1998. 229--268.

Empirical tests of the Gradual Learning Algorithm.
Paul Boersma and Bruce Hayes.
LI. 32 (1). 2001. 45--86.

Probabilistic Learning Algorithms and Optimality Theory.
Frank Keller and Ash Asudeh.
LI. 33 (2). 2002.