Faculty Research and Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2000


In Southern Paiute, word initial w is realized as a labialized velar nasal intervocalically if it finds itself in such an environment upon morphological concatenation. McCarthy and Prince (1995) argue that a serial analysis of this alternation vis-à-vis reduplication leads to an ordering paradox, but an Optimality Theoretic analysis of the interaction between reduplication and the morphophonemic alternation in the language is able to account for the data. This analysis of Southern Paiute data, along with a handful of other examples in their work, is put forth by McCarthy and Prince as strong evidence in support of Correspondence Theory. I show that McCarthy and Prince’s interpretation of the Southern Paiute data is erroneous. In particular, the sole datum they present as evidence for the ordering paradox problem in a serialist approach is not a reduplicated form at all, but instead a compound of two verbs. Thus, while I make no overt attempt to defend a serial approach, the data is shown to pose no ordering paradox for such an account. I conclude that Southern Paiute does not provide evidence that supposed identity effects in the language can motivate under-application of phonological alternations, and that Optimality Theory adds no new insight, but only complicates the analysis of the data. My findings also call into question the motivation for a Correspondence Theoretic component in the grammar. Finally, my discussion is consistent with e.g., Ohala’s (1990) observation that while a serial approach may not always present an adequate synchronic model, it is more faithful to the diachronic processes that give rise to synchronic variations.