Optimality Theory in Phonological Acquisition This tutorial presents an introduction to the contemporary linguistic framework known as optimality theory (OT). The basic assumptions of this constraint-based theory as a general model of grammar are first outlined, with formal notation being defined and illustrated. Concepts unique to the theory, including “emergence of the unmarked,” are also ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1999
Optimality Theory in Phonological Acquisition
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jessica A. Barlow
    San Diego State University San Diego, CA
  • Judith A. Gierut
    Indiana University Bloomington, IN
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: jbarlow@mail.sdsu.edu
  • Contact author: Jessica Barlow, PhD, DEPartment of Communicative Disorders, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-1518. Email: jbarlow@mall.sdsu.edu
Article Information
Development / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1999
Optimality Theory in Phonological Acquisition
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1999, Vol. 42, 1482-1498. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4206.1482
History: Received July 20, 1998 , Accepted May 7, 1999
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1999, Vol. 42, 1482-1498. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4206.1482
History: Received July 20, 1998; Accepted May 7, 1999

This tutorial presents an introduction to the contemporary linguistic framework known as optimality theory (OT). The basic assumptions of this constraint-based theory as a general model of grammar are first outlined, with formal notation being defined and illustrated. Concepts unique to the theory, including “emergence of the unmarked,” are also described. OT is then examined more specifically within the context of phonological acquisition. The theory is applied in descriptions of children's common error patterns, observed inter- and intrachild variation, and productive change over time. The particular error patterns of fronting, stopping, final-consonant deletion, and cluster simplification are considered from an OT perspective. The discussion concludes with potential clinical applications and extensions of the theory to the diagnosis and treatment of children with functional phonological disorders.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (DC01694) to Indiana University. We appreciate the helpful comments provided by Daniel Dinnsen, Annette Hust Champion, and Kathleen O’Connor.
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