Optimal Syntax (OT-LFG)

** Please be warned: This page is rather out of date, and some of the links may not work. For more up-to-date references, check out the proceedings of the annual LFG Conference and the LFG Bibliography. **

LFG in an OT Setting

A number of researchers are exploring the Optimal Syntax  (OT-LFG) framework, using LFG to generate the candidate space for optimization against rankings of  a universal set of violable, conflicting constraints.    From the point of view of Optimality Theory, OT-LFG is just Optimality Theory with GEN set to be a universal LFG.  From the point of view of LFG, OT-LFG is just LFG with a violable constraint system used as a preference filter on analyses.  Research is proceeding from both points of view.  For related work, see the Optimal Typology Project and the links to individual researchers below.

Papers (*New):

Ash Asudeh has written an important paper  on the problems of optionality and ambiguity in OT syntax. analyzing subject/object alternatiions in Marathi.  As demonstrated by Smita Joshi in her 1993 Stanford Ph.D. dissertation Selection of Grammatical and Logical Functions in Marathi, Marathi has syntactically ambiguous transitive constructions with a class of nonvolitional verbs, and Asudeh follows Joshi's use of Dowty's proto-role theory to explain the alternation.  However, Asudeh's OT incarnation of the theory has certain advantages over Joshi's Lexical Mapping Theory version.  Asudeh also applies Paul Boersma's theory of variable ranking of constraints.
Ash Asudeh. 1999.  Linking, optionality, and ambiguity in Marathi: An Optimality Theory analysis .  Ms. Stanford University Department of Linguistics.  Postscript and pdf.
Joan Bresnan posts pre-publication papers on OT-LFG on her webpage.  The most recent listed are these:
Joan Bresnan. 1999. The Lexicon in Optimality Theory.  Revised version of paper pesented to the 11th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Special Session on the Lexical Basis of Syntactic Processing: Formal andComputational issues, Rutgers University, March 20, 1998.

Joan Bresnan. 1999.  The Emergence of the Unmarked Pronoun.  To appear in Optimality-theoretic Syntax, edited by Geraldine Legendre, Sten Vikner, and Jane Grimshaw, published by The MIT Press.

Aaron Broadwell has written an eye-opening paper showing how pied-piping effects in Zapotec fall nicely out of OT alignment constraints.  What is eye-opening is that  pied-piping has been so widely conceived of in terms of movement; yet the Zapotec phenomena are much more intuitively explained by his constraint-based approach:
Aaron Broadwell. 1999. The interaction of focus and constituent order in San Dionicio Zapotec.  On-line, CSLI Publications: http://csli-publications.stanford.edu/LFG/4/lfg99-toc.html. Html and pdf.
Miriam Butt has co-authored one of the first LFG papers to incorporate OT-style constraint ranking:
Miriam Butt, Mary Dalrymple, and Anette Frank. 1997. An Architecture for Linking Theory in LFG (with Mary Dalrymple and Anette Frank.  On-line, CSLI Publications: http://csli-publications.stanford.edu/LFG/2/lfg97.html.
Hye-Won Choi wrote the first Stanford University doctoral dissertation in OT-LFG.  In it she argued that word-order variants of the same sentential content are optimizations against conflicting constraints on canonical syntactic structure and discourse structure.  This work has been quite influential, stimulating much new work in this area.  It is now available in revised form as a book:
Hye-Won Choi. 1999.  Optimizing Structure in Context:Scrambling and Information Structure.  CSLI Publications.
*Cathryn Donohue's CSLI webpage has a downloadable version of her OT paper Optimizing Fore case and word order.

Anette Frank has co-authored several OT-LFG papers which discuss the OT implementation in the large-scale LFG grammars of Xerox XLE.  One of these can be downloaded from CSLI's on-line publications:

Anette Frank, Tracy Holloway King, Jonas Kuhn and John Maxwell. 1998. Optimality Theory Style Constraint Ranking in Large-Scale  LFG Grammars.  On-line, CSLI Publications: http://csli-publications.stanford.edu/LFG/3/lfg98-toc.html.
Jonas Kuhn's important paper on  generation and parsing in OT-LFG is now revised and will appear in Formal and Empirical Issues in Optimality Theoretic Syntax, edited by Peter Sells (CSLI Publications).  In it he proves the decidability of the universal parsing problem for OT-LFG (an issue raised by Johnson), and also addresses complexity issues.  See his web page for both this and the earlier version (and much other very interesting work).  His doctoral dissertation treats these and other OT topics, including faithfulness.
Jonas Kuhn. 1999. Generation and Parsing in Optimality Theoretic Syntax -- Issues in the Formalization of OT-LFG (draft version of November 1999).  On-line, Institut für maschinelle Sprachverarbeitung, Universität Stuttgart: http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/~jonas/.
*Hanjung Lee has a new web page where her work on deriving markedness asymmetries and variation from grammar (her thesis topic) can be downloaded.   Downloadable papers include  the following.  The first two  are new: (1) a revision of  "Markedness and Word Order Freezing",  which explains an 'emergence of the unmarked' effect on  word order in scrambling languages (free word order freezes into a fixed, canonical order under certain circumstances) using bidirectional optimization as well as markedness constraints, and (2)  "Markedness and Pronoun Incorporation", which explains gaps in the appearance of pronominal object prefixes in Bantu languages within a theory of contextual neutralization of marked pronominal forms in marked contexts.
 Markedness and Word Order Freezing. 2000b. To appear in Peter Sells (ed.), Formal and Empirical Issues in Optimality-theoretic Syntax. Stanford: CSLI Publications.  [contains substantial revisions]

Markedness and Pronoun Incorporation. 2000c. To appear in BLS 26.

The Emergence of the Unmarked Order in Hindi. 1999a. Longer version of the paper presented at the 30th Conference of the Northeastern Linguistic Society, Rutgers University, October 22-24,1999.

The Domain of Grammatical Case in Lexical-Functional Grammar. 1999b. In Miriam Butt and Tracy H. King (eds.), Proceedings of the LFG99 Conference. On-line, CSLI Publications: http://csli-www.stanford.edu/ publications/.

The Emergence of the Unmarked Order. 1999d. On-line, Rutgers Optimality Archive,
ROA-323-0699, http://ruccs.rutgers.edu/roa.html.

Discourse Competing with Syntax: "Misplaced" Que in Child French. 1999e. Revised version of the paper presented at the Stanford/CSLI Workshop on Optimality Theory: Is Syntax Different? Common Cognitive Structures for Syntax and Phonology in Optimality Theory, Stanford, December 12-13, 1998, and at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, Los Angeles, January 7-10, 1999

Helge Lødrup has very interesting work on argument realization in OT-LFG, which has just been published:

Helge Lødrup.  1999. Linking and Optimality in the Norwegian Presentational Focus Construction. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 22, 2, 1999, Pp. 205-229.
If you visit his website at the right moment, you can usually obtain pre-publication versions.

Yukiko Morimoto's website has  a variety of  downloadable papers on argument realization, argument reversal effects, and Bantu syntax in OT/LFG:

The Role of Animacy and Associational Harmony in Bantu. 2000. Paper presented at the 31st Annual Conference on African Linguistics. Boston University, March 2-5.

Markedness in Bantu Inversion. 2000. Paper presented at the LSA Annual Meeting, January 6-9. Chicago.

An Optimality Account of Argument Reversal. 1999. In Miriam Butt and Tracy King (eds.), The Proceedings of the LFG '99 Conference. University of Manchester, UK, July 19-21.

Subject-object reversal in Kinyarwanda. 1999. Paper presented at the 30th AnnualConference on African Linguistics. UIUC, July 2-5.

Argument linking of nominals in English and Japanese. 1999. To appear in the
proceedings of TLS-99.

Peter Sells is currently working on an alignment theory of word order and has also worked on the typology of argument realization.  You can download the following papers from his website.  Several papers and a monograph on Swedish word order, including object shift, are in the works.  The latest news is that his new paper on object shift in Swedish is now available for download:
Peter Sells. 2000.  Alignment Constraints in Swedish Clausal Syntax.  2000.

Peter Sells. 1999. Constituent Order as Alignment. To appear in S. Kuno et al. (eds.) Harvard Studies in Korean Linguistics 8.  Harvard

Peter Sells. 1999. Form and Function in the Typology of Grammatical Voice Systems.  To appear in G. Legendre, J. Grimshaw, and S. Vikner (eds.) Optimality-Theoretic Syntax. Cambridge, MIT Press.

Devyani Sharma's insightful paper on Kashmiri is now available on her website:
Devyani Sharma. 1999. Case Marking and Person Hierarchy Effects in Kashmiri.
Nigel Vincent is pioneering diachronic OT-LFG.  Don't miss his major paper  now on the LFG Archive:
Nigel Vincent. 1999.  Competition and correspondence in syntactic change: null arguments in Latin and Romance.[vincent-1999-1209] On-line, Stanford University: http://www-lfg.stanford.edu/lfg/archive/archive.html.

Background OT-LFG Papers:

One of the compelling reasons for using an LFG-style parallel correspondence theory of structures (GEN) in Optimality Theory is that the same feature structures may correspond to candidates arising independently from the morphology and syntax, resulting in  dynamic competition effects between word and phrases.  This situation is analyzed in the following paper:
Joan Bresnan. To appear. ``Explaining Morphosyntactic Competition.'' In Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory, edited by Mark Baltin and Chris Collins.  Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.   Draft of February 18, 1999.  49 pages (postscript).  Available on the Rutgers Optimality Archive: (ROA-299-0299).
An interesting commentary on the ideas of the above paper analyzes the parsing problem for OT-LFG and relates OT-LFG to a class of maximum-entropy models in probabilistic language processing:
Mark Johnson. 1998.  ``Optimality-theoretic Lexical Functional Grammar.''   Presented to the 11th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Special Session on the Lexical Basis of Syntactic Processing: Formal and Computational  Issues, Rutgers University, March 20, 1998.  [a commentary on Joan Bresnan's presentation at the 1998 CUNY conference] 15 pages. (gzipped postscript)
The first paper discussing conceptual and empirical advantages of using a universal LFG as GEN within OT compared with the GB-style structures assumed in other work is this:
Joan Bresnan. In press ``Optimal Syntax.'' In Optimality Theory: Phonology, Syntax and Acquisition, edited by Joost Dekkers, Frank van der Leeuw and Jeroen van de Weijer, to be published by Oxford University Press.  Draft of March 22, 1998. 65 pages (postscript).
Here is a link to Choi's work for those who are unable to obtain the revised book version:
Hye-Won Choi,. 1996.  Optimizing Structure in Context: Scrambling and Information Structure. Stanford University Department of LInguistics Ph.D. dissertation. 256 pages.  (postscript) Available from  ROA as ROA-147-1096; also available by anonymous ftp at ftp-csli.stanford.edu/pub/Preprints/choi.ps.gz.

Background papers in OT:

Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky. 1997.  ``Optimality: From Neural Networks to Universal Grammar.''  Science Magazine, March  14, 1997.  (PDF format)

Paul Smolensky. 1996. The initial state and 'richness of the base' in Optimality Theory. Technical Report JHU-CogSci-96-4, Cognitive Science Department, Johns Hopkins University.

Bruce Tesar and Paul Smolensky. 1998.  Learnability in Optimality Theory.  Linguistic Inquiry 29(2): 229-68.


Other links:

The Optimal Typology Project.
The Rutgers Optimality Archive (ROA)
The LFG Archive
 Joan Bresnan's Unofficial links and notes on OT/LFG.
March 20, 2000
Joan Bresnan
(bresnan at stanford dot edu)