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  • Markedness and economy in a derivational model of phonology
  • Keren Rice
Markedness and economy in a derivational model of phonology. By Andrea Cala-Brese. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2005. Pp. viii, 532. ISBN 3110184655. $132.30 (Hb).

Andrea Calabrese begins Markedness and economy in a derivational model of phonology with a story. He had developed a model of phonology to account for markedness, conspiracies, and opacity, using universal constraints, repair, and parallel evaluation, coupled with principles including economy and last resort. Sitting at a restaurant, he had an epiphany: phonology is part of human praxis and, he argues, parallel evaluation requires a time and effort that is not possible in speaking. This revelation forced him to rethink the theory, and in this book he proposes, essentially, a return to classical generative phonology with its rules and derivations, coupled with repairs triggered by markedness constraints to account for conspiracies. He terms this 'a realistic theory of phonology': 'phonology is about concrete mental events and states that occur in real time, real space, have causes, have effects, are finite in number' (2, from Bromberger & Halle 2000:21). The development of a theory of substantive phonological universals, designed 'to account for the occurrences and variation of phonological properties within and across languages' (1), is his major goal.

The first word of the title, 'markedness', has been of interest since Nikolai Trubetzkoy and has been a long concern of C's (Calabrese 1988, 1995). The role of markedness in phonology is controversial—it is at the core of optimality theory (OT) but rejected as playing a role in others. C builds his theory around markedness, identifying it as a theory of linguistic costs. Marking statements indicate that some actions are more complex than others, and markedness constraints disfavor or rule out complex actions. C presents a defense of markedness in phonology, showing how apparent reversals are accommodated.

The second major word of the title is 'economy'. Economy, C argues, is important since phonology occurs in real time, and there is a scarcity of time and resources. Economy is the response to this scarcity. Economy and markedness thus form important foundations, functioning to make the theory, in C's terms, realistic in terms of expenses.

Markedness and economy alone do not constitute an adequate theory of phonology, C claims, recognizing that synchronic phonology also involves idiosyncrasies. Phonology thus combines natural aspects—markedness effects—with idiosyncratic or conventional ones, including ordering statements, idiosyncratic rules, and exceptions. Here the third part of the title enters in—'a derivational model'.

C takes on the ambitious task of laying out this realistic theory of phonology, with case studies to illustrate it. He also has a second goal, to provide an alternative to OT, and an argument against OT is always in the background and often in the foreground.

C proposes a multifaceted phonology. The phonological component contains two subcomponents, an instructions system and an operator subcomponent that performs operations on phonological strings. The instructions system checks inputs and identifies configurations that satisfy the instructions; these are labeled and sent to the operator component where they are modified through the application of minimal operations; this feeds back to the instructions system, and so on.

One part of the instructions system is the markedness module, composed of universal negative constraints and universal natural rules. The negative constraints may prohibit configurations that are impossible for articulatory/acoustic/perceptual reasons, or they may be marking statements, identifying complex configurations found in some inventories. Constraints may be active or deactivated in a language; when deactivated, the marked configuration is allowed. Constraints serve an important role as triggers of repair. Languages differ in how repair works, as not all languages repair an ill-formed representation in the same way, and repair is viewed as a hierarchy of possibilities, with the most common repair ranked highest. As a whole, the markedness module 'refers to a concrete mind/brain state in its relationship to the sensory-motor system' (42). [End Page 622]

The markedness module of the instructions system accounts for universal substantive aspects of phonology. A second subcomponent of this system, language-specific phonology/morphophonology, consists of idiosyncratic rules, statements on serial order, exceptional...


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