the post drought continues

I’m not sure where all my time is really going at the moment (or more accurately, to list what’s devouring it all would be too long and boring).

Instead, I’d have liked to dazzle you with an insightful review of OCP, last week’s phonology fest. If I had the time to marshal my thoughts, I’d be treating my readership to an evaluation of the implications of the minimalist program for phonology, a review of the manifold and not necessarily mutually supportive concerns that have been raised against the very conceptual foundations of optimality theory (did you know, o fellow phonology geeks, that Gen 2.0 was unveiled last week, and if you weren’t there to see it you’ve really missed out). It’s also intriguing to see how many advances armchair phonology can make (or not) in complete isolation from whole fields such as first and second language acqusition, and the remarkably diverse range of denotations of ‘phonetics’ that survive in the realms of old-world phonology.

However, other concerns are calling. Until things get back into some semblance of routine, don’t expect too much from here.


10 thoughts on “the post drought continues

  1. Sorry to hear this … droughts are not conducive to the well-being of those living in Subsaharan Africa. And, although quite a proportion of my work is phonological (unless you don’t consider the proofreading of phonological descriptions of minority languages for orthography development purposes to be so), I’ve done fine without OT (let alone Gen 2.0) so far – thankyou! :D

    Hope your writer’s block / time consumption activities / or whatever else is hindering you from posting gets resolved soon.

    Greetings from Nairobi,


  2. I look forward to future posts. Don’t worry – I don’t think any of your regular readers will abandon you on account of lack of rainfall.

    Also, this hard-core phonetician has just learned that he may be writing a phonology paper in the near future, so he’ll be very interested in that side of things when you get back into the groove.


  3. PS: I’m curious about what conceptual foundations are being undermined in OT. My first phonetics teacher was particularly wary of it, and I learned a healthy (but not excessive, I hope) skepticism of language models that are not clearly grounded in some sort of empirically-accessible psychological terms.


  4. Thanks Richard, for fuelling my dream of some day getting the chance to learn some biblical Hebrew (or Greek) :)

    Oliver if you can carry on without it, i for one certainly won’t object :)

    Tim – the problem in question was that Gen theoretically produces an infinite number of candidates, but if that’s the case, then it’s impossible for the analyst to know whether the candidates they’re evaluating are the right ones. You get different constraint rankings depending on the candidates posited in the tableau. I’d love to talk phonology! Also blog it – i just fear that a substantial proportion of my readers start feeling they’re being somehow punished whenever the p-word is mentioned :)


  5. Or the ph-word.

    Just also to add that modelling change (developmental or diachronic) is also problematic in OT – even though the possibility of reranking constraints is an inbuilt mechanism for dealing with it. Sociolinguistic-type variation, as distinct from change, is also difficult – even if you opt for stochastic models. (The Historical Phon reading group was having an extended discussion of this over several meetings when i was last able to attend – worth dropping in on them if you get the chance). Also April McMahon’s book, Chance, Change and Optimality (or some ordering of those terms!) – elegant & often entertaining altho it’s a while since i read it now


  6. Hi catherine, I just want to let you know that I too have entered the blogosphere! I am not presumptiosly suggesting you may be interested in my blog (although you may) but I am trying to establish a readership base.
    The blog is (I should say will be, it has no substantive posts yet) about politics, but that does not mean it will be dull! The URL is

    If you would like to post any advice, I have a facility for that on the blog – my one and only post is an introduction, and invites constructive comment.

    I realise this is turning into a bit of an essay, so I will stop rambling on now, but please drop in to take a look if you have time – and that goes to anyone else reading this too.

    P.S. – If at any time in the future you feel my blog is worthy, feel free to provide a link from your page! Thanks.


  7. Oho, I see what you’re playing at, Neil – wait till i have a lull in posting, then attempt to steal all my readers by introducing a new blog of your own! Very sneaky.

    Well I’ll add yours to my feeds (ie i’ll be reading even if i don’t comment much) – and the mere fact that i know you in real life means you have a substantially increased chance of making it onto my blogroll, which is hand-selected and only updated once in a blue moon even tho it’s not particularly difficult to do.

    General advice – post frequently, be patient, don’t expect a huge readership instantly, comment elsewhere to raise your profile, find and keep a consistent ‘voice’, be as courteous to the people you interact with as if they were in your sitting room with a mug of coffee in their hand. Oh and my biggest piece of advice would have been to use WordPress instead of blogger, but too late! :)


  8. Haha, thanks cath! No, to be honest the timing had nothing to do with trying to steal your readers, but maybe it will have that effect anyway! :) In any case, I am sure they will still read your blog occasionally too!

    Advice noted, thanks very much.


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