Conspiracy Argument for OT from Emakhuwa Dialectology
Farida Cassimjee and Charles W. Kisseberth
Benedict College/ Tel Aviv University
Halle (1962), in trying to motivate Generative Phonology, spends what
appear to be an inordinate amount of space (for a relatively short article)
demonstrating how a rule-based model such as GP provides significant
insights into dialect variation. In developing Optimality Theory, Prince and
Smolensky (1993) make little reference to dialectal variation, though they
do place considerable emphasis on how the "factorial typology" provided by
the theory predicts the cross-linguistic variation in certain sub-domains of
phonology. In this paper, we direct attention back to the specifically
dialectal implications of the theory.
We argue that (i) a rule-based model fails to characterize what the Pemba
dialect shares tonally with dialects such as Eerati, Imithupi, Enlai; (ii)
the rule model's failure is exactly akin to its failure to deal with
examples like the syllable structure conspiracy in Yawelmani (discussed in
Kisseberth (1970)); and (iii) OT provides a straightforward account of how
Pemba is connected to the other dialects due to the very essence of the
theory: by virtue of constraint interaction, a single constraint may both
bar a phenomenon from occurring (do something except when) and demand that a
phenomenon occur (do something only when).
For several Emakhuwa dialects, there is clear evidence, in rule-based
phonology, for rule (1). We call this rule High Tone Doubling.
(1) High Tone Doubling
A High tone spreads onto the immediately following mora.
In most dialects, High Tone Doubling will fail to apply when (i) the second
mora is IP-final, and (ii) the second mora is part of a long syllable that
is IP-penult; in a less widely distributed number of dialects, High Tone
Doubling will fail to apply (iii) when the second mora is in any IP-penult
syllable. These restrictions can be built into the formulation of (1), or
they could be gotten at through the formulation of rules that undo (1). The
latter analysis is possible since (1) derives structures that do not exist
in the language except as a consequence of (1). It is immaterial to this
paper which type of analysis of these restrictions is given.
In some dialects, there is a second rule, call it Delinking:
Delink the left-branch of a multiply-linked H tone.
However, in the dialects containing rule (2), this rule never applies
across-the-board. Specifically, it must be blocked from applying (i) to the
first mora of a bimoraic syllable and (ii) to a mora that in turn is
preceded by a H-toned mora. Dialects that have (2) as a categorial or a
gradient rule include Eerati, Imithupi, and Enlai.
There is only one way to deal with the restrictions on (2). Delinking
be blocked by conditions on the Delinking rule. If one attempted to delink
by one rule and then re-insert association lines by other rules into the
relevant positions (first mora of a bimoraic syllable and between High
tones), one cannot insert them correctly by any plausible rule. The argument
that Delinking in these dialects must be blocked (by a preceding High tone
and by virtue of being located on a bimoraic syllable) is crucial to our
There are a number of varieties of Emakhuwa (e.g. those in central
of Nampula province) do not have High Tone Doubling at all. In these
dialects, underlying H tone specifications simply sit on a vowel and they is
no further phonology of note. However, thereis one dialect (that spoken in
Pemba town in Cabo Delgado) that we have come across that does not have High
Tone Doubling in any general fashion, but where there are two instances of
violations of tonal faithfulness: namely, there is spreading from the first
mora to the second mora of a bimoraic syllable (subject to exactly the same
constraints as in the other dialects) and there is spreading from one mora
to another mora just in the case the second mora is itself followed by a
Rule-ordering describes the Pemba dialect as having a rule that spreads just
in case the targetted mora is followed by a H; it describes
Eerati/Enlai/Imitthupi as having a rule that delinks unless the preceding
mora is H. These dialects simply have two different rules (spreading vs.
delinking) with quite different looking conditions. From the point of view
of rule-based phonology, these are simply arbitrary dialectal differences
with no connection. There is no shared rule.
Optimal Domains Theory [=ODT], a particular version of OT, permits an
account of Emakhuwa dialectology where the relationship between Pemba and
the other dialects is made transparent. The same well-motivated universal
constraint, one we call Plateau (*H0H), serves to drive both the appearance
of a H tone in Pemba and block the loss of a H tone in
Eerati/Enlai/Imithupi. In other dialects (e.g. Ikorovere, Esaaka, Imeetto),
the generality of the "doubling" phenomenon masks the effects of Plateau.
Only in a range of dialects without doubling, and without any effects of
Plateau, must Plateau be ranked below faithfulness (e.g. the dialects of
central Nampula province).
We conclude there is a conspiracy argument for OT based on Emakhuwa
dialectology. It is the consraint-based OT, and not the rule-based GP, that
provides significant insight into the welter of dialectal variation.
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Previously held Penn Linguistics Colloquium: PLC22 (1998), PLC21 (1997)
Penn Department of Linguistics
University of Pennsylvania