This paper proposes a model of stress assignment in which metrical structure is built serially, one foot at a time, in a series of Optimality Theory (OT)-style evaluations. Iterative foot optimisation is made possible in the framework of Harmonic Serialism, which defines the path from an input to an output with a series of gradual changes in which each form improves harmony relative to a constraint ranking. Iterative foot optimisation makes the strong prediction that decisions about metrical structure are made locally, matching attested typology, while the standard theory of stress in parallel OT predicts in addition to local systems unattested stress systems with non-local interactions. The predictions of iterative foot optimisation and parallel OT are compared, focusing on the interactions of metrical parsing with syllable weight, vowel shortening and constraints on the edges of prosodic domains.
Includes data from Australian languages.