Language and Optimality

Reinhard Blutner
Section: Language
Level: Foundational


The course provides an overview of the main empirical background and the important techniques of optimality theoretic linguistics. The particular aims are threefold. First, I want to demonstrate that optimality theory (OT) is not only restricted to the area of phonology but has important applications in syntax, semantics and pragmatics as well. The second goal is to substantiate the claim that the optimality theoretic paradigm can overcome some of the fallacies that the standard Generative paradigm suffers from (comprehension/production dilemma in child language; psychological unreality of grammatical principles). Third, I want to point at the computational aspects of OT. Further, the connection between (bidirectional) OT and game theory will be discussed.

Course Outline

  1. Generative linguistics and OT
  2. Phonology of the syllable
  3. OT learning theory and bidirection
  4. OT syntax and OT semantics
  5. Bidirectional OT and pragmatics / Interpretation Games


General interest in theoretical linguistics.


Web page containing slides and other material


Reinhard Blutner
Tassostr. 5
D-13086 Berlin
Tel. 030-9250054