Optimality theory (OT) is a constraint-based theory of grammar that was introduced in the early 1990s by Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky in their seminal work Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar. The theory represents a radical departure from the generative rule-based theories that have dominated linguistics since the 1960s, and the subsequent research that has emerged from OT investigations has yielded answers to several long-standing questions, especially in the domain of phonology and acquisition.

One of the nagging questions that had eluded a satisfactory answer is why different, seemingly unrelated languages exhibit many of the same phonological processes. An equally perplexing question has been why children in the course of acquisition exhibit phonological processes that are not evident in the target language. OT ...

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