2009Finding the Right Words – All you wanted to know about Optimality Theory, Harmony Grammar and Simulated Annealing, but were afraid to ask....
Invited talk given at: Sound Circle, May 14, 2009, Amsterdam. Slides.




Since "The Harmonic Mind" of Paul Smolensky and Geraldine Legendre appeared in 2006, there has been an increased interest in Harmony Grammar (HG) and in Simulated Annealing (SA) within the Optimality Theoretical (OT) camp. Yet, many phonologists might find it difficult to understand the mathematical and computational details of this huge work. To tell the truth, they even do not care about the connectionist component of Optimality Theory. It was also in 2006 that I defended my thesis (Finding the Right Words: Implementing Optimality Theory with Simulated Annealing, phd-thesis. GroDiL 62; ROA-896), in which I had developed a slightly different approach, called the Simulated Annealing for Optimality Theory (SA-OT) Algorithm. Mine, let me argue, has the following three practical advantages compared to the approach of Smolensky and al: (1) it is purely symbolic, and not connectionist; (2) it is really OT, and not HG; (3) it has been demonstrated to model linguistic performance, including the influence of speech rate on performance errors.

In this talk, I will try to give a short introduction to OT, HG, SA and SA-OT so that the recent literature in "more computationally oriented" OT become more accessible to "less computationally minded" linguists. To conclude the talk, a piece of software will also be presented where one can "play around" with an SA-OT model.