Gouskova 2003

Gouskova, Maria. 2003. Deriving economy: Syncope in Optimality Theory. Ph.D. dissertation. Graduate Linguistics Student Association, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

This dissertation proposes that markedness constraints in Optimality Theory are lenient: a form can be marked with respect to a constraint only if there is another form that is unmarked. Thus, no constraint bans the least marked thing. The central consequence of this idea is that there are no economy constraints that penalize structure as such. Economy effects follow from the interaction of lenient markedness constraints. Detailed case studies of vowel deletion, or syncope, show that it can be conditioned by metrical markedness constraints (Hopi, Tonkawa, Southeastern Tepehuan) or positional constraints on the sonority of vowels (Mekkan and Lebanese Arabic, Lillooet, Lushootseed). Metrical shortening and syncope remove marked structure, not all structure: the well-formedness of an output is determined by the distribution of weight in its feet and exhaustivity of footing, not by the number of syllables, moras, and feet. There are real crosslinguistic asymmetries in attested differential syncope patterns that can only be explained if we abandon the notion that “everything is marked.”