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Croatian phonological alternations in optimality theory


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Volenec, Veno. (2018). Croatian phonological alternations in optimality theory. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Linguistics.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij lingvistike) [mentor Liker, Marko].

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In this dissertation, Optimality Theory was employed in the analysis of Croatian segmental phonological alternations in order to test a central thesis of that theory. A central thesis of Optimality Theory is that the human phonological faculty, defined as the biologically determined cognitive predisposition to acquire implicit knowledge about the linguistic sound system, contains a set of innate constraints. Constrains are negative statements that prohibit certain linguistic configurations, and are grounded functionally, in terms of articulation, perception, and typology. The goal of this research was to answer the following two questions: What kind of device is most properly utilized in describing the knowledge of an idealized speaker about Croatian phonological alternations? Are functionally grounded principles on which Optimality Theory depends – phonetic substance and frequency of use, which are subsumed under the notion of markedness – a part of the human language (phonological) faculty? To attain this goal, two hypotheses were put forth. First, the phonological rule is the more appropriate device for describing phonological knowledge than the phonological constraint characteristic for Optimality Theory. Second, functionally grounded principles on which Optimality Theory depends (markedness) are not crucial aspects of the phonological faculty, but rather a consequence of linguistic performance, and therefore should be encoded neither in universal grammar nor in generative grammar. In order to test these hypotheses, Optimality Theory was used in describing Croatian segmental phonological alternations (voicing assimilation, place assimilation, segment insertion, segment deletion) and their interaction (the interaction of voicing assimilation and place assimilation, the interaction of assimilations and deletion, and the interaction of assimilations, deletion, and insertion). On the basis of attained results, a rationalist, deductive, qualitative research method was used with the purpose of testing the scientific adequacy of Optimality Theory, bearing in mind its central thesis. This research showed that OT constraints are theoretically incoherent in the wider scientific and philosophical context of generative linguistics; that compared to phonological rules, constraints attain inferior empirical coverage; that constraints violate principles of scientific simplicity; that constraints violate principles of formal logic; and that the claim that constraints are innate (universal) is biolinguistically implausible. The research also showed that substantive markedness, understood as a grammatical principle, is not compatible with the biolinguistic cognitive view of language which is characteristic for generative linguistics, that it is both unnecessary and unjustified to assume that phonetic substance is a part of the phonological faculty, and therefore that substance should not be encoded in either universal or generative grammar. This dissertation is a contribution to two important topics in contemporary phonological theory. The first topic is the status of rules and constraints as descriptive and explanatory devices, and the second topic is the role of phonetic substance in phonology. The results of the research conducted in this dissertation support rule-based phonology and the thesis that phonetic substance does not have a direct role in phonological computation. Phonology is form, not substance.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: generative phonology, Optimality Theory, constraints, phonetic substance in phonology, markedness, phonological alternations
Subjects: Linguistics
Departments: Department of Linguistics
Supervisor: Liker, Marko
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij lingvistike
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2018 13:56
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2018 13:56

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