Opacity deconstructed
Eric Bakovic
July 2010

The crucial assumption underlying opacity is that phonological processes interact in ways that may obscure the applicability (= underapplication) or application (= overapplication) of a given process. Phonologists frequently equate each of these two types of opacity with a particular type of pairwise interaction between serially-ordered rules in the rule-based serialism approach of Chomsky & Halle (1968) and subsequent work in that tradition. Underapplication is equated with counterfeeding rule order, and overapplication is equated with counterbleeding rule order. But straightforward dissociations exist between each type of opacity on the one hand and the supposedly corresponding type of rule interaction on the other. I show that not all cases of underapplication result from counterfeeding nor do all cases of counterfeeding result in underapplication, and that not all cases of overapplication result from counterbleeding nor do all cases of counterbleeding result in overapplication. Each of these other cases of opacity is well-established in its own right, but for one reason or another has not been typically classified as an example of opacity. Doing so reveals a more complicated picture of opacity than previously thought. This is especially significant given the debate between proponents of rule-based serialism and proponents of Optimality Theory (OT; Prince & Smolensky 1993), more often than not centering around the topic of opacity. Both sides of the debate agree on one thing: that opacity is central to phonological theory. The point of contention is whether OT does or should provide a ‘unified treatment for opacity’ (Kaisse 2009). The sobering result emerging from this piece is that neither OT nor rule-based serialism does so. [ Comments on the article can be directed either to the author directly or on phonoloblog: http://camba.ucsd.edu/blog/phonoloblog/2009/09/05/opacity-deconstructe/ ]
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/000926
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: The Handbook of Phonological Theory, 2nd ed.
keywords: opacity, counterfeeding, counterbleeding, blocking, feeding, bleeding, phonology
previous versions: v1 [September 2009]
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