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On constraint summation in Dispersion Theory

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Dispersion Theory enriches constraint-based phonology with a new class of contrast constraints. These new constraints crucially apply to sets of phonological mappings, while the classical constraints traditionally posited by constraint-based phonology apply to individual mappings. As a consequence, Dispersion Theory “lifts” these classical constraints to sets of mappings by summing them across the map- pings in a set. Is this assumption of constraint summation typologically innocuous? Or do the classical constraints make different typo- logical predictions when they are summed, independently of the presence of contrast constraints? The answer depends on the underlying model of optimization used to order profiles of constraint violations and thus determine the smallest one. Building on an independent result in Prince (2015), this paper exactly characterizes those orderings for which the assumption of constraint summation is typologically in- nocuous. As a corollary, typological innocuousness is established for the OT and HG implementations of Dispersion Theory.

Joint work with Benjamin Storme. Manuscript submitted in May 2018.