<OT> Descriptive and Explanatory Adequacy in Linguistics (DEAL)
Rutgers Optimality Archive
roa at ruccs.rutgers.edu
Wed Jul 20 08:32:03 PDT 2005
Full Title: Descriptive and Explanatory Adequacy in Linguistics
Short Title: DEAL
Location: Berlin, Germany
Contact Person: Hans Broekhuis <Hans.Broekhuis at uvt.nl>
Meeting Email: DEAL at uvt.nl
Web Site: http://let.uvt.nl/deal05
Call Deadline: 15-Sep-2007
This workshop addresses problems concerning descriptive and explanatory
adequacy in linguistics, especially the Minimalist Program and
The current state of affairs in the minimalist program (MP) and
theory (OT) clearly illustrates the general tension between descriptive
explanatory adequacy. The description of the differences between the two
frameworks in the next three paragraphs is somewhat coarse and
in order to highlight the general tendencies.
MP is a very austerely formulated theory, but this seems to go at the
of descriptive adequacy: the empirical scope seems to be restricted to
syntactic and semantic phenomena that involve or can be directly
movement and features, and during the last decade much effort has been
to incorporating established insights of earlier phases of the
theory. Although this endeavour has been successful to a certain
still seems to be out of reach of the theory in its present formulation.
OT, on the other hand, can readily be applied to virtually any
subfield of linguistics. It is widely accepted as the standard
theory, and proposals exist that extend its empirical domain to the
syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The explanatory adequacy of OT is
however, which is clearly related to the fact that OT only offers a
scheme for the formulation of grammars; it has a system of ranked
constraints at its core, but OT grammars can be specified in various,
sometimes even incompatible ways. A great advantage of this freedom is
has brought together researchers from various theoretical frameworks
GB, MP, LFG, HPSG, etc), but a drawback of this is that the body of
could be referred to as OT-syntax lacks internal consistency, so that
OT-syntax is still far from acquiring a reasonable degree of explanatory
The problem concerning explanatory adequacy is actually enlarged by the
that there is no clear consensus about what constitutes the core of
the universal set of constraints CON. Contrary to what seems to be the
OT-phonology, there is no well-established and widely accepted set of
substantive syntactic constraints. There is even disagreement on the
format of these constraints: whereas in phonology most constraints are
to be either faithfulness or markedness constraints, this is not
for OT-syntax. This, in its turn, is related to the question what forms
input of the OT-syntax. Many possibilities come to mind: a numeration, a
pre-established phrase marker, a semantic representation, etc.
Many researchers construe MP and OT not only as competing but also as
incompatible theories. Since OT is not committed to a particular
representational formalism, this is by no means obviously the case: it
well be imaginable that current MP could be reformulated in OT-terms.
might actually solve one major problem for current OT-syntax since it
restrict the syntactic constraints such that they can only be phrased
of (the outputs of) the operations of the generator, which under this
would be the computational system CHL, and the legibility conditions
by LF and PF. Further, it is clear that MP and OT-syntax in their
formulation focus on different aspects of the grammar: whereas the
mainly concerned with the derivation of structure, the latter evaluates
syntactic representations created by the generator. Of course, MP
that the output structures must be evaluated by interface/bare output
conditions, but an explicit formulation of these conditions is still not
provided. Within OT-syntax it is sometimes acknowledged that conditions
needed on the generator, but so far explicit proposals are lacking. It
conceivable, therefore, that MP and OT are actually complementary
which can cancel each other's weaknesses. Of course, incorporating
from MP into OT, or vice versa, can be obtained in a variety of ways.
questions whether this is desirable, and, if so, in which way this must
obtained are largely empirical in nature.
In this workshop we want to address questions that involve the
explanatory adequacy of MP and OT, and the relation between the two
frameworks. Below we provide some of the questions that could be
this conference. Of course, this set of questions is not exhaustive.
these questions are formulated is certainly biased, and expresses our
that the insights of MP and OT can profitably be combined into a more
comprehensive theory. Of course, contributions that contest this belief
argue for the primacy of one of the two frameworks are also welcome at
workshop. It goes without saying that the questions below are just a
subset of the set of questions that can be addressed in this workshop.
The minimalist program
- Empirical scope. So far the empirical scope of MP seems to be
syntactic phenomena involving or directly relatable to movement. Is
inherent restriction of MP? If not, how can MP be extended in order
cover cases that cannot be related to movement. If so, how should the
that MP cannot account for be addressed?
- Computational system. In the earliest studies within the MP, it was
that CHL is universal and that differences in the output should be
attributed exclusively to the morpho-syntactic features in the
language variation is due to the set of strength/epp-features in the
lexicon. In general practice, the effect of these features is that
numeration leads to a single converging syntactic representation.
the universality of the CHL is still maintained, the claim that the
language variation is the lexicon is not. In recent work, it is
the output of CHL is evaluated by the interpretative component INT,
seems to consist of a set of language-specific filters. This implies
CHL overgenerates, and that the selection of the acceptable structure
actually due to the evaluation of the output of CHL. This raises the
question whether we still need to postulate lexical
whether they can actually be assumed to be part of INT.
- Interface/bare output conditions. What are the interface conditions,
should they be formulated? In which way are they applied to the
created by CHL? What is the relation of the interface/bare output
to the filters of the interpretative component INT? More
INT part of the semantic bare output conditions? If so, is there also
phonological interpretative component?
- Input. It is not a priori clear what the input of the OT-generator
is. Is it
a numeration of the sort proposed in MP, or is it some other object
semantic or some prefabricated syntactic representation. If the
is the origin of these representations?
- Generator. Although it is generally acknowledged that the generator
certain properties that affect the candidate set, studies in OT
not explicitly address this. Furthermore, these properties normally
play a role in the explanations for the empirical data. Nevertheless,
fully elaborated theory should make clear what operations the
consists of, and what effects these operations have on the output of
system. In principle, enrichment of the generator may reduce the
sets, which in its turn may void the need of certain constraints and
shift part of the explanatory power to the generator. Is there
OT that would block such a move? Is such a move desirable? May such a
contribute to making the theory explanatorily adequate?
- Evaluator. Focus in OT-syntax seems to be on descriptive adequacy,
the constraints are crucial in obtaining that, it is not surprising
set of proposed constraints is growing abundantly. In a sense
resembles early TG-theory, where the focus was on formulating and
discovering the properties of the newly introduced means of
transformations. However, if we can learn something from the history
generative grammar, it is that we can only achieve explanatory
we place severe bounds of the admissible means of describing the
data. It is
therefore necessary to develop a constrained and principled theory of
constraints: What is the general format that the constraints should
to, and what are the types of constraints we may expect to occur?
The Minimalist Program and Optimality Theory
- Should MP and OT-syntax be considered two competing theories? If so,
properties of the two systems make them intrinsically incompatible?
the prospects of solving the problems concerning the
adequacies of the two systems?
- Should MP and OT-syntax be considered as frameworks that simply focus
different questions, so that they are actually complementing each
so, could they be profitably combined into an overarching theory?
- Should we incorporate aspects of OT into MP (e.g. could we
filters in INT and/or the interface conditions into a OT-format) or
we incorporate MP into OT (e.g. could some version of CHL be the
OT-generator). How would combining aspects of MP and OT contribute to
solving the descriptive/explanatory adequacies of the two systems?
The workshop is organized by the Linguistics departments of the
Tilburg (the Netherlands), the University of Potsdam (Germany) and the
f¸r Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Typologie und Universalienforschung
in Berlin (Germany).
The workshop will be held at the ZAS from Saturday December 17, 2005,
December 19, 2005. The first two days and the morning session of the
will consist of 15 talks of fifty minutes each (including a 10 minutes
discussion). Five of these talks will be given by the following keynote
1) Edwin Williams, Princeton University, New Jersey
2) David Pesetsky, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
3) GÈraldine Legendre, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
4) Jane Grimshaw, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
5) Chris Collins, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
The afternoon session of the third day will be devoted to a round table
discussion of the five keynote speakers chaired by Henk van
Riemsdijk. Abstracts are solicited for the remaining 10 slots. The
will be reviewed anonymously. Please keep to the following instructions
concerning your abstract:
- Submission is only possible in electronic form, preferably in
we also accept .rtf, .doc, or plain text files.
- Send one copy that includes your name and affiliation, and one
- Abstracts may not exceed two pages of text with an at least one-inch
on all four sides.
- Abstracts must employ a font not smaller than 12 point.
- Each page may include a maximum of 50 lines of text.
- Abstracts may include an extra page for references (not examples).
- Abstract should be sent to DEAL at uvt.nl
- Abstract should be received by September 15, 2005.
- Notices of acceptance will be sent out before October 15, 2005.
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