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Book: Harmonic Grammar and Harmonic Serialism

Chapter: 4. Parallelism vs. Serialism, or Constraints vs. Rules? Tongan Stress and Syllabification Revisited

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.24949


In their seminal work on Optimality Theory, Prince and Smolensky (1993/2004) contrast their OT analysis of Tongan stress and syllabification with a rule-based analysis (Poser 1985), demonstrating that while the OT analysis is consistent with both universal markednss principles and empirical observations about Tongan, the rule-based analysis ignores markedness principles and stipulates empirically unsupported rules. They conclude that the Tongan data favor the parallel architecture of OT over the serial architecture of rule-based analyses. This paper presents an Harmonic Serialist (McCarthy 2010b) analysis of Tongan, which, despite its serial implementation, is no less theoretically principled or empirically supported than the OT analysis. Given that HS and OT differ from the rule-base frameworks in their use of violable constraints, it is concluded that the ability to account for the Tongan data is determined not by the choice between parallel and serial architectures, but by the use of constraints instead of rules.

Chapter Contributors

  • Minta Elsman ( - melsman) 'University of Massachusetts, Amherst'