Many long-distance phonological processes exhibit what I call distance-based decay: the likelihood of application decreases as transparent distance increases. This article provides a robust model of distance-based decay within Maximum Entropy Harmonic Grammar (Smolensky 1986, Goldwater and Johnson 2003), drawing from thousands of data reflecting three processes across four languages. I reject using distance-specific constraints, and instead posit a decay function that scales the weight of a single AGREE/DISAGREE constraint with increasing distance (Kimper 2011). Though decay rates differ empirically across the four languages, I capture such differences purely with the weight of markedness and the weight of faithfulness without having to fit the decay function to each language. I argue based on statistical measures that distance is best measured in syllables rather than segments, supporting Martin 2005. The decay function takes as input a modified version of syllable count and returns a value that is then multiplied by the weight of AGREE/DISAGREE. It takes the form of a negative power function, which I show performs better than a down-sloping linear function.
Proceedings of the 32nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Ulrike Steindl, Thomas Borer, Huilin Fang, Alfredo García Pardo, Peter Guekguezian, Brian Hsu, Charlie O'Hara, and Iris Chuoying Ouyang Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-466-9 library binding
vii + 351 pages
publication date: 2015
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA