2006Simulated Annealing for Optimality Theory: A performance model for phonology.
Conference talk given at: Workshop on Computing and Phonology, December 8, 2006, Groningen, Netherlands. See also http://www.let.rug.nl/~birot/comp-phonology.php. Slides.




Similarly to other fields in linguistics in the last forty years, phonological models have focused on linguistic competence, whereas performance has not been considered as belonging to the realm of linguistics. The traditional Chomskyan dichotomy between competence and performance has, however, been questioned in the last decade by an increasing number of scholars. Certain performance phenomena, such as variation, conditional corpus frequencies and gradient grammaticality judgments, have been shown in many cases to be related to factors that unquestionably belong to linguistics. Models accounting for these phenomena have led to an ongoing discussion on whether and how to draw the borderline between competence and performance, or between the realm of linguistics and extra-linguistic factors.

I shall present the Simulated Annealing for Optimality Theory Algorithm (SA-OT) as a possible compromise. The main idea is to replace the Chomskyan dichotomy with a three-level structure: the static knowledge of the language in the brain, the computation performed by the brain, and the extra-linguistic level. While a traditional OT-grammar is a model for the static knowledge of the language, its implementation -- such as SA-OT -- models the first part of the language production process. By being related to the linguistic model, but also prone to make errors under different conditions (such as time constraints), it is claimed to be an adequate model for certain, linguistically motivated performance phenomena.