Optimality Theory has been adapted by some linguists to a stratified model, what are the benefits of such a model over a non-stratified model of OT?

  • One can claim that it's new and improved, and therefore change all the terminology.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


Stratal approaches offer a way to deal with morpho-phonological opacity, which is one of the biggest challenges to the traditional monostratal version of OT.

A few years ago I looked at some inflectional paradigm data from several languages--Japanese, Ukrainian, and Turkish. In each of these languages I found a handful of forms that on the surface appear to violate the expected inflectional pattern (e.g. in Japanese there are some verbs that consist of vowel-final stems and vowel-initial suffixes, despite the tendency everywhere else for vowel-final stems to "select" consonant-initial allomorphs of suffixes). I found that, in each case, no single ranking of constraints could account for the majority of forms plus these exceptional forms.

It turned out that adopting a stratal model--one with a unique "stem phonology" constraint ranking and one with a unique "word phonology" constraint ranking--could account for all of the data.

  • thanks, I've read quite a bit about how Stratal OT can tackle the Opacity Problem, but I've not found much on anything else. Commented May 10, 2013 at 9:20
  • Well, that is its main benefit over monostratal OT. Monostratal OT simply can't account for these opaque cases unless one relegates one of the levels to "morphology" that is memorized and stored in the lexicon. Commented May 10, 2013 at 13:38
  • In a paper I wrote I showed what advantages the stratal approach has over other proposed modifications to the OT framework for dealing with opacity (purely cyclical models or McCarthy's Optimal Paradigms) and I also showed that a simple, two-stratum model without any cyclicity (as opposed to Kiparsky's three-stratum model, which included two cyclical levels) suffices to account for the data I was examining. I'd be happy to talk more about those issues, but here I was focusing solely on the comparison of traditional, monostratal OT and the multi-stratal approach. Commented May 10, 2013 at 13:41

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