Computing Vowel Harmony: The Generative Capacity of Search and Copy

Supplemental Proceedings of the 2019 Annual Meeting on Phonology

Venue: AMP
Type: Conference
Formal Languages

Samuel Andersson

Yale University

Hossep Dolatian

Stony Brook University

Sophie Hao

Yale University


May 2, 2020

Search & Copy (S&C, Nevins, 2010; Mailhot & Reiss, 2007; Samuels, 2009a,b) is a procedural model of vowel harmony in which underspecified vowels trigger searches for targets that provide them with features. In this paper, we seek to relate the S&C formalism with models of phonological locality proposed by recent work in the subregular program (Heinz, 2018; Chandlee, 2014; Chandlee et al., 2015; Hao & Andersson, 2019; Hao & Bowers, 2019). Our goal is to provide a formal description, within the framework of mathematical linguistics, of the range of possible phonological transformations that admit an analysis within S&C. In particular, we do not propose an analysis of any particular linguistic phenomenon; instead, the present study should be viewed as an analysis of the S&C formalism itself. Our analysis allows S&C to be compared with other formalisms in terms of their expressive power, and identifies conditions under which S&C descriptions of vowel harmony and other phenomena may be incorporated into software systems for phonological processing based on finite-state techniques (see Beesley & Karttunen, 2003).