A heuristic mathematical approach for modeling constraint cumulativity: Contrastive focus in Spanish and Catalan

Aria Adli
2011 The Linguistic Review  
This work presents a heuristic mathematical approach to modeling and quantifying constraint violations. The empirical phenomenon consists of different word orders with contrastive focus in the Spanish variety of Catalonia and in Catalan. Experimental data has been collected with a gradient acceptability judgment test for auditorily presented focus constructions. The most unmarked position for contrastively focused objects in the Spanish of Catalonia is in situ or sentence-final, while in
more » ... sentence-initial and in situ position is preferred. In Spanish, the subject has to be postverbal if the focus is preposed, but these constructions still remain marked. These results are explained with a model according to which each constraint has a numerical violation cost, and according to which the costs of all constraints violated by a sentence cumulate. The presumed constraint set is analyzed with an algebraic approach based on a system of linear equations with which violation costs are calculated. The methodology is heuristic in the sense that it can be used for exploring whether there could be a "missing piece". Such a missing piece would be another constraint to be included post hoc in the set. It corresponds to another unknown added to the system of linear equations.
doi:10.1515/tlir.2011.004 fatcat:wwb6fgvnrjbjnmr3qrevohm4x4