Farrell Ackerman & James P Blevins
Morphology is traditionally described as ‘the study of word structure’. For much of the modern period, this study has been guided by the goal of elucidating the relation between discrete units of ‘meaning’ and ‘form’; this semiotic goal is sometimes even taken to define the task of morphological analysis. Classical models develop a different conception of structure, one grounded in the implicational relations between patterns of form variation, rather than in the denotative function of their parts. This perspective is partially rehabilitated in studies of ‘morphomic’ patterns (e.g., Maiden 2005) but even within this literature (e.g., Aronoff 1994) implicational patterns are often treated as deviations from a normatively denotational organization.
This course traces the development of implicational models from their classical origins to their modern formulation in current word and paradigm (WP) approaches. Within this tradition, the fundamental locus of analysis is the morphological system, not inventories of elements abstracted from systems. Implicational analyses model system-level variation, regarding individual contrasts at the level of form, arrangement and distribution as dimensions of larger patterns with communicative functions.
The lectures explore a cluster of issues that arise within approaches that frame morphological analysis in terms of observable and quantifiable dimensions of system-level variation. The general topics covered in lectures include discussions of:
- The principles and dynamics that define the organization of morphological alternations, patterns and systems,
- The abstractive and discriminative dimensions of form variation, and the implicational function of structure,
- The statistical basis and predictive value of linguistic ‘units’, and the secondary function of ‘diagnostics’,
- The pedagogical biases that underlie analytic traditions based on constructs like ‘rules’, ‘lexicons’ and ‘grammars’,
- The formal and distributional bases of familiar notions such as ‘features’, ‘classes’, ‘templates’ (and ‘meaning’),
- The role that paradigmatic structures play in overcoming effects of sparse and biased input on acquisition and use,
- The learning principles that allow discriminative models to resolve morphological ‘competion’ in the course of acquisition,
- The form in which implicational relations are represented in integrated models of language learning and processing.
Blevins and Blevins (2009); Bochner (1993); Bybee (1985); Matthews (1991); Sims (2015)
L1: Typological & developmental perspectives (pdf)
- What is the nature and extent of language variation (and why does this matter)?
- What ensures the learnability of (complex) inflectional and derivational systems?
- How can methods and models in linguistics be adapted to answer these questions by drawing on insights from the developmental sciences?
L2: Variation & anomalies (pdf)
- Why does what recurs cross-linguistically, recur?
- Why do the variations in encodings of what recurs look the specific way they do?
- What can we conclude from: variable morphotactics/endoclisis/multiple exponence/periphrasis/polyfunctional markers/etc.?
L3: Measuring morphological variation & structure (pdf)
- How can we measure variation/implicational structure in morphological systems?
- Do languages differ in how much measurable variation and structure they exhibit?
- Are there any constraints on how much/little variation a language can exhibit?
The Zipfian Paradigm Cell Filling Problem (pdf)
- How does a speaker come to know the inflected and derived forms of a language?
- How much of a learning challenge does inflectional variation create?
- To what extent is this challenge affected by the problem of the ‘Sparsity of the Stimulus’?
- What types of structure in the input can compensate for sparsity and bias?
L4: Morphological structure and information (pdf)
- How does structure in the input compensate for sparsity and bias?
- Does form variation function in isolation or in the context of a system?
- In what ways are the analytic challenges associated with the segmentation and classification of recurrent partials different from those associated with words?
L5: Naturalness, predictiveness and system-internal interpretation (pdf)
- What role do natural feature classes play in synchrony and diachrony?
- What is the nature of the stimulus available to speakers?
- What is the relevance of subphonemic sensitivity to word-based assumptions?
- What is the status and function of regular and irregular formations?
L6: Discrimination and extrapolation (pdf)
- What role does sub-phonemic variation play in morphological change?
- Is decomposition ever lossless, or is some information always lost?
- What communicative role do regular and irregular formations play?
L7: Architectural vs learning-based analysis and explanation (pdf)
- What is the nature of ‘explanation’ and what role does it play in evaluating alternatives that develop radically different intuitions?
- What is the status of morphological competition?
- Can traditional claims for the status of units or structures be validated by 'naive', general-purpose techniques for probing the informativeness of linguistic units, boundaries and system organization?
L8: Implicational structure of derivational families (pdf)
- In what ways do inflection and derivation share implicational organization?
- In what other ways can inflectional and derivational elements be related or differentiated within synchronic systems and across diachronic stages?
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