Learning optimality-theoretic grammars

Bruce B. Tesar, Paul Smolensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We present evidence that Optimality Theory's account of Universal Grammar has manifold implications for learning. The general principles of Optimality Theory (OT; Prince and Smolensky, 1993) are reviewed and illustrated with Grimshaw and Samek-Lodovici's (1995) OT theory of clausal subjects. The optimization structure OT provides grammar is used to derive a principled decomposition of the learning problem into the problem of assigning hidden structure to primary learning data and the problem of learning the grammar governing that hidden structure. Methods are proposed for analyzing both sub-problems, and their combination is illustrated for the problem of learning a stress system from data lacking metrical constituent boundaries. We present general theorems showing that the proposed solution to the grammar learning sub-problem exploits the special structure imposed by OT on the space of human grammars to correctly and efficiently home in on a target grammar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-196
Number of pages36
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Dec 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Acquisition
  • Learnability
  • Optimality Theory


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