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Forced choice and varieties of default in morphological systems: is morphology truly discrete? Mark Aronoff Stony Brook University AIMM I University of.

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Presentation on theme: "Forced choice and varieties of default in morphological systems: is morphology truly discrete? Mark Aronoff Stony Brook University AIMM I University of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Forced choice and varieties of default in morphological systems: is morphology truly discrete? Mark Aronoff Stony Brook University AIMM I University of Massachusetts 22 September, 2012

2 The takeaway Morphological systems are usually thought to be discrete The paradigm case of discreteness is the forced choice or complementary distribution of rival realizations, which has been analyzed as a system of default or elsewhere mechanisms, using an idea borrowed from phonology Inflectional competition can be modeled in this way Rivalries between lexeme formation mechanisms do not form discrete systems, first impressions and prejudices to the contrary At least one English inflectional system, the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives, does not exhibit discrete distributional patterns, but instead more resembles the competition found in lexeme formation

3 Competition in imperfect languages In a perfect language, there would be only one way to express something In actual languages, there is often more than one way to express the same thing The two or more ways to express the same thing must be sorted systematically if they are all to remain part of the language system Sorting among alternative expressions is done by competition

4 Competition in imperfect languages In most frameworks, there is no discussion of how the actual competition that leads to the systematic distribution takes place Instead, only the settled system that results from the competition is modeled All current grammatical theories assume that competition results in complementary distribution of the competing expressions This appears to be true for most instances of inflection

5 Complementary distribution Complementary distribution works well as a sorting mechanism in discrete systems in which one member of a given set maps onto many members of another set, each of which has a distinct distribution In linguistics, complementary distribution was first found in phonology, where it has been recognized as a basic organizing principle for a century Complementary distribution in phonology is inextricably bound up with the notion of the phoneme Each member of the set of abstract phonemes is mapped onto one or more members of the set of more concrete phonetic allophones, each of which occurs in a specific environment

6 Complementary distribution, residue, elsewhere, and default in phonology If the distribution of the allophones does not overlap, then the environment of one allophone does not need to be specified, because its distribution can always be treated as residual The allophone whose distribution is residual and hence not specified will be the elsewhere or default allophone The default variant/allophone is sometimes called basic

7 Encoding complementary distribution in phonology Exactly what it means for a default variant to be basic differs from theory to theory In some phonological theories, the default or basic allophone is treated as the fundamental or underlying variant of the phoneme, from which all others are derived In theories where the default allophone is underlying, it is usually thought to be important that phonemes have ‘concrete’ reality, though the two ideas are not logically related In some phonological theories, there is no connection between the fundamental element and the default variant Instead, the default variant is simply the one that is filled in as a last resort In these theories, the ‘concreteness’ of underlying representations is less of an issue

8 An aside on encoding complementary distribution in morphology The same two opposite views of the nature of defaults are prevalent in morphology as well In some theories of morphology, the elsewhere morphological realization or variant or morph is basic or underlying in some sense In other theories of morphology, the elsewhere realization is filled in as a default or last resort There has been little discussion of which view of defaults is correct The choice on the part of any one theorist seems to be a matter of taste, just as in phonology

9 Inflectional morphology Inflection is a mapping between two very different kinds of sets of objects: syntax and phonology For that reason, inflection is usually thought of as the realization of syntactic objects as phonological forms I will assume that the objects to be realized are the cells of a paradigm – Whether the paradigm is a fundamental entity is irrelevant The cells form an n-dimensional matrix that is characterized in terms of morphosyntactic feature values like tense, aspect, person, number, and gender

10 Features in inflectional morphology Morphosyntactic features are simply those syntactic features or entities that are realized morphologically in any given language whether these features are universal in any sense is irrelevant to the current discussion How the features are organized is irrelevant to the current discussion The feature structure may also contain purely morphological features, most commonly declension and conjugation classes

11 Effability, paradigms, and obligation in inflection Whether the notion of a paradigm is fundamental is not relevant to the importance of paradigms in morphological realization A given cell in an inflectional paradigm must (almost) always be realized, because of Katz’s (1978) principle of effability (whatever is thinkable is sayable) Because of effability, inflection is usually characterized as obligatory There are occasionally defective paradigms We will ignore defective paradigms here, though they have interesting properties

12 Complementary distribution in inflectional morphology In inflection, competing expressions are almost always in complementary distribution, just as with phonemes and allophones Just as in phonology, one of the competing expressions can be characterized as the elsewhere or default variant Morphology differs from phonology in the characterization of the environments in which the variants occur Most crucially, the environment of one or more of the expressions may be lexical, consisting of one or more specific lexemes To my knowledge, there is no lexical distribution of allophones in phonology. There are occasional cases of lexically distributed phonemes in borrowings, e.g., the final /x/ of Bach or the /ɔ᷉/ of chaise longue

13 An example: German plural morphology The distribution of plural markers in German nouns is determined by a number of factors, with a few rules and a few strong tendencies Rules – Feminine nouns ending in –e exceptionlessly take a –n suffix: Dame, Damen – Certain derivational suffixes are consistent – Most feminine derivational suffixes (-heit, -keit, -schaft, -ung) take -n – Nouns ending in –ling have a plural in –linge – -er, -ler, and –ner are unsuffixed Tendencies – Masculine nouns whose last syllable contains a schwa tend to be unsuffixed – But there are exceptions, e.g. bauer(n), muskel(n) – There are other tendencies of various strengths Many nouns must be marked lexically for which plural marker they take (including umlaut, sometimes combined with other markers) Some nouns borrowed from Latin or Greek borrow their plural markers and, in very learned German, their case markers

14 An example: Defaults in German plural morphology The default plural marker is –s (Clahsen et al. 1992) – German plural –s is associated with no large class and occurs most commonly with borrowed words, nonce forms, acronyms, and proper names: autos, parks, kiosks The default plural marker –s is a pure default that cleans up residue; it is not more frequent in any sense This analysis is controversial Regardless of whether Clahsen et al. are correct, it doesn’t make much sense to think of the default German plural marker as underlying in any sense of the term

15 An example: Defaults in Arapesh morphology Aronoff (1994) contains extensive discussion and illustrations of defaults in morphology, concentrating on Arapesh, a language of Papua New Guinea first described by Fortune (1942) and the subject of much work since 1994 by Lise Dobrin Arapesh provides examples of default agreement, default gender, and default inflectional class Default agreement: when the controller of agreement does not provide sufficient information, then a default agreement marker is found on the target of agreement – Controller may be first or second person, which are genderless – Controller may be null – There may be a gender clash between coordinated controllers – Controller may be outside the gender system for other reasons In all these cases, the agreement target shows gender viii agreement The assignment of gender to a target under agreement or concord is syntactic but the realization of gender is morphological Default realization of gender and noun class on the target emerge when the syntax fails to assign a value for gender to the target

16 Default gender and inflectional class in Arapesh nouns Arapesh has thirteen genders and twenty-two inflectional classes for nouns Gender and noun class are assigned according to semantic or phonological criteria A noun that does not fit into the regular assignment system or is a lexical exception is placed in gender viii and noun class 8b – Nouns ending in b, k, or s have no phonological gender assignment and so fall into gender viii and the inflectional class 8b: mib ‘thigh’, mibehas ‘thighs’ – Sex-neutral terms for persons show default gender because the two genders for persons are male and female: arapeñ ‘friend’, arapeʃ ‘friends’; batouiñ ‘child’, batouiʃ ‘children’ – A few nouns do not follow their expected inflectional class assignment. They show noun class 8b plurals and gender viii agreement; lim ‘roller’, limehas ‘rollers’ – A few nouns show regular inflection for their class but agree as if they do not belong to the gender that the class corresponds to. Instead they show gender viii agreement: diliat ‘side post’, diliatogu ‘side posts’; gender xi, class 8 Gender viii and noun class 8b are both default classes that emerge when the normal methods of assigning gender or noun class fail, for whatever reason

17 Last-resort default realization There are two reliably reported cases of languages with ‘literal alliterative concord’ (Dobrin 1995, 1998), Bainouk (Atlantic) and Arapesh Both languages have large numbers of genders and inflectional noun classes In both languages, loanwords that lie outside the noun class system condition agreement in which segments of the controller noun are copied onto the target – In Bainouk, the initial #CV is copied as a prefix – In Arapesh, the final (V)C# is copied as a suffix In both cases, there is a last-resort default mechanism that captures those cases that are not caught by the normal default system

18 Complementary distribution as default inheritance in inflectional morphology Brown and Hippisley (2012) provide a computationally implementable account of complementary distribution in inflectional morphology The most important mechanism in this account is default inheritance within a network or hierarchy Default inheritance encodes the elsewhere principle very elegantly The elsewhere variant is the default More specific variants or lexical specifications override the default

19 Intermission Inflectional systems are nicely described as competing realizations organized in terms of the domain of their application, with the realization with the largest domain usually being the default The default realization emerges both in the elsewhere environment and when lexical specification cancels the realization that would normally emerge

20 Complementary distribution in lexeme formation Competition in lexeme formation appeared at first to be organized in the same way as in inflection Aronoff (1976) showed that the allomorphs of English noun-forming –ion are in complementary distribution, with –ation as the default form Aronoff claimed that the productivity of one suffix in a restricted environment (e.g. –cy after adjectives ending in – ent, -ant, and –ate) blocks the occurrence of the competing default suffix –ness Aronoff noted that phonological restrictions on the suffixation of –ation to verbs ending in palatal stridents (ʃ, ʒ, tʃ, dʒ) feeds–ment in precisely this environment (e.g. abridgement, astonishment)

21 Defaults and overrides in lexeme formation within Network Morphology Brown and Hippisley (2012) devote a chapter of their book on network morphology to competition in lexeme formation, mostly in Russian B&H use complementary distribution to distinguish among a number of competing suffixes, based on syntactic and morphological conditions: “When there is more than one rival affix available to realize a particular derivational function, the base’s properties can be accessed to resolve the competition.” (p. 277) B&H note that “the default/override machinery in Network Morphology is ideal for teasing out the transparently productive only from the non- productive altogether.” ( p. 278) B&H use “semantic-level override” for lexically listed senses of individual lexemes that result from non-productive lexeme formation rules B&H do not attempt to account for non-lexical facts about relative productivity

22 The distribution of rivals in lexeme formation is not complementary In the last forty years, it has been found that rival LFRs are in fact rarely in absolutely complementary distribution Differences in productivity between rival LFRs are seldom all-or-none More common are pairs of rival LFRs where one member of the pair is relatively less productive than the other, in a given environment. English –ity is less productive than –ness when preceded by – ive. English –ity is more productive than –ness when preceded by – able.

23 The use for less productive LFRs An LFR that is less productive overall is likely to be especially productive in its specific niche 1.-ity is much less productive overall than –ness -ity is much more productive than –ness ever is under any conditions when preceded by –able, -al, -ic, -id 2.-ical is much less productive overall than –ic -ical is much more productive than –ic when preceded by –ology: biological, psychological But in the narrow context of medical discourse, -ic is more productive with –ology: “gynecologic cancer” heard on a TV ad on 9/17/12 A less productive LFR can be used to coin technical terms: productivity, biologic, excellency, excellentness These phenomena only make sense when both alternatives are possible

24 The historical emergence of LFRs An LFR may enter the language through borrowing of individual words. Once a sufficient number of words has accumulated, the pattern may be used to form novel words. This is how Latinate suffixes became part of English, by cumulative borrowing of individual words An LFR that has once been productive may lose its productivity when another LFR comes into existence and becomes productive. These changes can be traced ‘in real time’ by looking at first citations in OED and now OED online (ref A&A and Lindsay). Such emergent phenomena cannot be modeled using discrete methods

25 Paradigmaticity and compositionality Why are inflection and lexeme formation different with respect to complementary distribution? Inflection is paradigmatic and compositional: all the cells in the paradigm of a lexeme need to be fillable for reasons of effability and all are semantically compositional The need to fill all cells leads to automaticity: the means for filling all cells in a paradigm must be automatically available Lexeme formation is driven instead by onomasiological considerations. Words like paradigmaticity, onomasiological, and compositionality are needed only when a concept arises that they can name Naming is conditioned to a great extent by nonlinguistic needs – Canadianization – Systemness The differences in the importance of complementary distribution may be rooted in the two different uses to which morphology is put

26 A case of noncomplementary distribution in inflection: The English comparative The comparison of adjectives (degree) in English is famously expressible by two means, the suffixes –er, - est and the adverbs more, most Degree is usually considered to be syntactic rather than lexemic and hence inflectional (Zwicky 1989) the adverbial expressions of degree might accordingly be thought of as periphrastic Periphrastic forms are usually treated members of the lexemic paradigm – Latin perfect passive – Romance perfect

27 The distribution of the rival realizations of degree in English The two means of expressing the comparative/superlative degrees in English appear at first glance to be in complementary distribution, like other inflectional realizations Words of one syllable generally take –er/-est Words of three or more syllables take only the periphrastic form Two-syllable words ending in-y take -er/-est: sillier, livelier Predicate-only adjectives take only the periphrastic form: *awarer, *afraider, *contenter Elsewhere, only periphrastic forms occur

28 Not so simple There are many exceptions and uncertainties Some one-syllable words avoid –er: ?apter Clearly borrowed words avoid –er/-est: *loucher Most exceptions and uncertainties occur among two-syllable words – Many two syllable words not ending in unstressed syllable other than –y prefer -er/-est: stupid, narrow, noble, simple, clever – But some words of this type prefer periphrasis: vapid, callow, ample – The one word likely accounts for most cases of periphrasis among –y words (Kyto and Romaine 1997) Linguists differ sharply on individual words – Zwicky (1989) says that words with tense (unstressed) vowels in their final syllable take -er/-est: profound, polite, sincere, obscure – As far as I can tell, words of this type accept both forms, with some lexical preference for one form or the other but a great deal of uncertainty

29 Not so simple Zwicky quotes Evans and Evans (1957): “But this is a description of what usually happens, not of what must happen. Mark Twain wrote: the confoundedest, brazenest, ingeniousest piece of fraud.” Jespersen (1949, p. 347) writes that “a good deal is left to the taste of the individual speaker or writer” and that the “rules given in ordinary grammars are often too dogmatic.” “Disyllabic words have always been subject to more variation.” (Kytö and Romaine 2000, p. 180) Frequency plays an important role among two-syllable words (Graziano-King 1999) A number of authors claim that there are stylistic differences between the two, with the periphrastic form more common in written registers.

30 A bit of history Germanic had only the suffixed forms Modern German continues to have only the suffixed forms The periphrastic construction entered the language in Middle English, modeled on French and Medieval Latin, which had lost the Latin (I-E) suffixed forms Kytö and Romaine (1997) show that the modern distribution developed gradually over a period of centuries Kytö and Romaine suggest that the periphrastic form originated in written English Since records of the earlier spoken language are rare to nonexistent, it is difficult to know how much the periphrastic form was originally restricted to written language

31 What should we learn from English degree morphology? The Modern English comparative is a real instance of inflectional competition that is not describable as complementary distribution Complementary distribution may not be fundamental, even in inflectional systems Even in inflectional systems, the distribution of rival forms may be an emergent process governed by principles of competition Complementary distribution in inflectional systems is a final state, with complementarity driven by morphosyntactic paradigms, not an initial state

32 Is there way out? One might claim that the Modern English comparative is not a real case of inflection – In that case, the fact that it does not exhibit complementary distribution might not bother us – Degree is an odd inflectional feature any way – more and most occurs with other major lexical categories: Blondes have more fun What Disney princess most resembles you But Bobaljik (2012) has argued at length that degree is an inflectional feature Degree morphology is attested in many places (though it is common only in “a greater European Sprachbund”) If degree is indeed an inflectional feature, then the distribution of degree morphology in English is a true case of inflectional competition that is not organized strictly in terms of complementary distribution

33 Conclusions We may have to rethink the centrality of complementary distribution in languages The tendency to model languages as entirely discrete systems may result at least in part from privileging stable synchronic systems Linguistics has not paid attention to systems that are not discrete and has even denied their validity as linguistic systems It is clear now that LFR rivalries are not discrete or profitably modeled in terms of complementary distribution Linguistics has not paid much attention to how morphological systems emerge Looking more closely at both nondiscrete systems and the emergence of systems of all types may shed light on some fundamental questions about language and languages


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