Iosad, Pavel. 2018. Optimality Theory: Motivations and perspectives. In S. J. Hannahs & Anna R. K. Bosch (eds.), The Routledge handbook of phonological theory, 13–36. London, New York: Routledge.
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This chapter provides an introduction to the basic mechanisms of Optimality Theory in phonology and to the most important motivations cited for its widespread adoption. I also review some of the empirical and conceptual challenges it has faced. Ultimately, I suggest, many of these challenges can be traced back to the fact that while OT grew out of a general dissatisfaction with some aspects of late-1980s rule-based phonology, it was adopted as a general theory of phonological computation without an explicit statement of the division of labour vis-à-vis other components of linguistic knowledge with which it interacts. I conclude the chapter by a discussion of ways in which OT still remains relevant even within a changed phonological landscape.
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