Optimality and Economy of Expression in Japanese and Korean

In this paper I will discuss certain cases in Japanese and Korean morphosyntax where forms compete to express the same semantic and grammatical information, and attempt to show that in each instance the most economical form is chosen. Presenting an account in terms of Optimality Theory (OT; see Prince and Smolensky (1993), Grimshaw (1995)), I will argue that constraints such as ‘Avoid Word’ and ‘Avoid Affix’ (as in (1)) are motivated as the forces behind the economization. (1) Avoid Word, Avoid Affix. In OT, constraints are violable and ranked. For a given input—in this paper, abstract grammatical and semantic information—the optimal output is the morpho-syntactic expression which best satisfies the constraints in their ranking, even if some constraints are violated. If the constraints in (1) were the only forces on grammatical expression, the optimal output would be silence; but such an output would fail to express any of the information in the input. Hence, there are constraints on what is called ‘Faithfulness’ in OT, constraints which require linguistic material to faithfully express the abstract input information. In the next section of the paper, I discuss cases where a single word competes with a syntactic formation to express the same input information, illustrating a case where ‘Blocking’ extends from morphology into syntax.
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