Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Catherine O. Ringen

Second Advisor

Jill N. Beckman

First Committee Member

Jerzy Rubach

Second Committee Member

William D Davies

Third Committee Member

Bob McMurray


From the early stage of Optimality Theory (OT) (Prince, Alan and Paul Smolensky (1993): Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar. [ROA: 537-0802:], McCarthy, John J. and Alan Prince (1995). Faithfulness and reduplicative identity. In Jill Beckman, Laura W. Dickey and Suzanne Urbanczyk (eds.) Papers in Optimality Theory. Amherst, MA: GLSA. 249-384), a number of analyses have been proposed to account for vowel harmony in the OT framework. However, because of the diversity of the patterns attested cross-linguistically, no consensus has been reached with regard to the OT treatment of vowel harmony. This, in turn, raises the question whether OT is a viable phonological theory to account for vowel harmony; if a theory is viable, a uniform account of the diverse patterns of vowel harmony should be possible.The main purpose of this thesis is to discuss the application of five different OT approaches to vowel harmony, and to investigate which approach offers the most comprehensive coverage of the diverse vowel harmony patterns. Three approaches are the main focus: feature linking with SPREAD (Padgett, Jaye (2002). Feature classes in phonology. Language 78. 81-110), Agreement-By-Correspondence (ABC) (Walker, Rachel (2009). Similarity-sensitive blocking and transparency in Menominee. Paper presented at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. San Francisco), and the Span Theory of harmony (McCarthy, John J. (2004). Headed spans and autosegmental spreading. [ROA: 685-0904:]). The applications of these approaches in the following languages are considered: backness and roundness harmony in Turkish and in Yakut (Turkic), and ATR harmony in Pulaar (Niger-Congo). It is demonstrated that both feature linking and ABC analyses are successful in offering a uniform account of the different types of harmony processes observed in these three languages. However, Span Theory turns out to be empirically inadequate when used in the analysis of Pulaar harmony. These results lead to the conclusion that there are two approaches within OT that can offer a uniform account of the vowel harmony processes. This also suggests that OT is viable as a phonological theory.


Optimality Theory, phonology, Pulaar, Turkic languages, vowel harmony


viii, 220 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 215-220).


Copyright 2009 Tomomasa Sasa

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