Faithfulness and Componentiality in Metrics

to appear in The nature of the word: Essays in honor of Paul Kiparsky, ed. by Kristin Hanson and Sharon Inkelas (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press)

Bruce Hayes


The core ideas of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993) have been shown in earlier work to be applicable to the study of poetic meter: metrical data are appropriately analyzed with ranked, conflicting constraints. However, application of OT to metrics still raises problems. First, while OT grammars derive outputs from inputs, metrics is non-derivational, the goal being simply to characterize a set of well-formed structures. Second, because constraints in OT are violable and conflict, there can be well-formed outputs that violate high-ranking constraints. Thus, it is not clear when constraint violations imply unmetricality. Third, there is no criterion for linking constraint violations to metrical complexity. Lastly, candidate competitions in OT always yield winners. This implies-falsely-that unmetrical forms should always suggest their own repairs, in the form of the winning candidate.

In the solution proposed here, well-formed structures are those that can be derived from a rich base (Prince and Smolensky 1993, Smolensky 1996). Unmetricality results not from constraint violations per se, but from violations of markedness constraints that outrank competing Faithfulness constraints. Complexity works similarly, under a gradient conception of constraint ranking adopted from Hayes (in press) and Boersma and Hayes (in press). Lastly, unmetrical lines do not suggest a repaired alternative because their derivations "crash." Crashing results from componentiality, and occurs when different components of the metrical grammar (Kiparsky 1977) disagree on which candidate should win.

Data are taken from studies of English folk verse by Hayes and Kaun (1996) and Hayes and MacEachern (1998).


Download text of paper


Sound Files for All Grid Examples

The following sound files are the author's chanted renditions of various lines which are depicted in the paper using metrical grid notation.  They are intended to help readers to apprehend intuitively the rhythms that the grid notations specify.

Format:   .wav files.  Click on an example number to hear the corresponding numbered form from the paper.












(37) (37a) (37b)
(37c) (37d)







Appendix:  List of Lexical Inversions in Folk Song

See main text, fn. 16.


Back to Metrics Page

Back to Bruce Hayes's Home Page