This paper investigates the phenomenon related to the morpheme KAI in the Hakka noun phrases. It investigates the presence or absence of KAI in the constructions where the head noun is modified by either a noun phrase or an adjectival phrase. KAI does not occur if the modifying phrase and the noun form a lexical compound. In other cases, the presence of KAI is by and large optional. To theoretically account for the phenomenon, this paper argues that the syntactic rules of Hakka allowed both of the alternative constructions with or without KAI; however, some semantic criteria may interfere in the selection of a grammatical construction as the preferable one. An interface of syntactic and semantic OT can account for this situation. When OT syntax selects multiple constructions as the optimal outputs, OT semantics goes one step further by pairing the output with a preferable interpretation. The interpretational constraints involved in the analysis are based on the principle of iconicity and the markedness relation between the contrastive emphatic and noncontrastive basic meaning.
Studia Linguistica: a Journal of General Linguistics 74(3), p.553-583