In this squib, we explore the generative consequences of candidate omission for constraint-based grammars. In principle, the candidate set for an input form i is the range of Gen(i) for a given generating function Gen (see Prince and Smolensky 1993:17). In practice, however, analyses often cover just a few candidates that are deemed relevant. The consequences of this practice are the focus of this squib.

Whether the omission is by oversight or by principle, a range of defects can readily arise because there are situations where, even though an analysis might include the observed/intended optimum along with a range of viable competitors, it is still possible to draw erroneous inferences about languages and typologies owing to the omission of a single candidate.

Aside from the—unfortunately familiar—problem of discovering an omitted competitor that breaks one’s current analysis because it is more harmonic than the intended/observed form, there...