Optimality Theory Rene Kager (Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands)
This is an introduction to Optimality Theory, whose central idea is that surface forms of language reflect resolutions of conflicts between competing constraints. A surface form is 'optimal' if it incurs the least serious violations of a set of constraints, taking into account their hierarchical ranking. Languages differ in the ranking of constraints; and any violations must be minimal. The book does not limit its empirical scope to phonological phenomena, but also contains chapters on the learnability of OT grammars; OT's implications for syntax; and other issues such as opacity. It also reviews in detail a selection of the considerable research output which OT has already produced. Exercises accompany chapters 1-7, and there are sections on further reading. Optimality Theory will be welcomed by any linguist with a basic knowledge of derivational Generative Phonology.