This contribution analyses morphologically autonomous structures within the context of the Romance languages, the family of languages which, along with Latin, have most served as an evidence base for these structures. Autonomous morphological structures are defined as an abstract representation of paradigmatic cells which form a cohesive group and reliably share exponents with each other, and the forms which realize them, are thus to a large extent interpredictable. In this contribution, I restrict my discussion to the most canonical type of these structures and those which have sparked the most controversy in the linguistic literature. I analyze this controversy and suggest that it is due to (a) their overlapping meaning with the term morphome, a concept which embodies an empirical claim about all morphology and (b) the controversy surrounding what morphology actually is and the basic units of morphological analysis and storage. I make a distinction between abstractive and constructive models of morphology and suggest that historical tendencies within the latter encourage scholars to view morphologically autonomous structures either as not synchronically relevant or as phonologically or semantically derivable due to their theoretical assumptions about the nature of language and the mental storage of words. These assumptions constitute the horizons of intelligibility of such models regarding the functioning of language and its governing principles, including outdated ideas of the capacity of mental storage. Unfortunately, however, the different theories furnish scholars with an expansive array of devices through which they can seemingly explain away the synchronic generalizations of the data while relegating the most recalcitrant data to the domain of memorized forms which are not relevant to the grammar. I present evidence in favor of the psychological reality of morphologically autonomous structures in diachrony and I argue that synchronically, these structures are necessary to explain the distribution of the data and capture the fact that speakers do not memorize every inflectional form of a paradigm but rely on patterns of predictability and implicational relationships between forms. It is my suggestion that morphologically autonomous structures encourage a revaluation of the basic units of memorization and the structure of the lexicon in accordance with abstractive theories of morphology.
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The reception of generativism in Romance linguistics has been uneven. In the field of morphophonology, scholars were engaging in the discussion about the tenets of generative phonology as early as the 1960s. Structuralist and generative phonologists spoke a mutually understandable metalanguage and worked on agreed-upon empirical facts. Generative syntacticians, by contrast, developed a far more intricate and technical metalanguage by exploring little-known phenomena or by turning apparently trivial facts into theoretically appealing issues. As a result, the reception of generativism in Romance syntax has been almost pathological: Generative and “traditional” Romance scholars have kept working on similar phenomena but from irreconcilable perspectives. Findings and ideas have often been discussed in separate venues and largely incommunicable terms. The reasons for this mutual indifference (rather than overt antipathy) are quite understandable. On the one hand, scholars with a historical/philological background, working on change and variation, had little or no interest in a model of synchronic competence detached from the cultural heritage of linguistic communities. Moreover, the highly technical style of generativist studies—mostly in English—hindered the diffusion of generative ideas beyond the circle of practitioners. On the other hand, generative grammarians have always had the tendency to exploit Romance data as a test bed for their theories, sometimes ignoring or downplaying the contribution of previous descriptive studies. From a generative standpoint, Romance linguistics has always been instrumental in improving theoretical linguistics, not the other way around. The relationship between the communities of Romance linguists and generativists has evolved over time. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the debate was vivid, as witnessed by conference proceedings and articles focusing on the most theoretical aspects of transformational grammar and generative (morpho)phonology, in particular with respect to the analysis of linguistic change and reconstruction. With some remarkable exceptions, however, generative ideas and methods were not readily implemented, and the history of the reception of generativism in Romance linguistics since the early 1980s can more easily be reconstructed from lacunae than documents. In this scenario, collaborative projects featuring generative and nongenerative linguists stand out, because they not only are rare but also yield exceptional results such as the Grande Grammatica Italiana di Consultazione or the Gramática Descriptiva de la Lengua Española, which are recognized reference works for both communities.
Arthur Seymour Abramson (1925–2017) was an American linguist who was prominent in the international experimental phonetics research community. He was best known for his pioneering work, with Leigh Lisker, on voice onset time (VOT), and for his many years spent studying tone and voice quality in languages such as Thai. Born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, Abramson served several years in the Army during World War II. Upon his return to civilian life, he attended Columbia University (BA, 1950; PhD, 1960). There he met Franklin Cooper, an adjunct who taught acoustic phonetics while also working for Haskins Laboratories. Abramson started working on a part-time basis at Haskins and remained affiliated with the institution until his death. For his doctoral dissertation (1962), he studied the vowels and tones of the Thai language, which would sit at the heart of his research and travels for the rest of his life. He would expand his investigations to include various languages and dialects, such as Pattani Malay and the Kuai dialect of Suai, a Mon-Khmer language. Abramson began his collaboration with University Pennsylvania linguist Leigh Lisker at Haskins Laboratories in the 1960s. Using their unique VOT technique, a sensitive measure of the articulatory timing between an occlusion in the vocal tract and the beginning of phonation (characterized by the onset of vibration of the vocal folds), they studied the voicing distinctions of various languages. Their long standing collaboration continued until Lisker’s death in 2006. Abramson and colleagues often made innovative use of state-of-art tools and technologies in their work, including transillumination of the larynx in running speech, X-ray movies of speakers in several languages/dialects, electroglottography, and articulatory speech synthesis. Abramson’s career was also notable for the academic and scientific service roles that he assumed, including membership on the council of the International Phonetic Association (IPA), and as a coordinator of the effort to revise the International Phonetic Alphabet at the IPA’s 1989 Kiel Convention. He was also editor of the journal Language and Speech, and took on leadership roles at the Linguistic Society of America and the Acoustical Society of America. He was the founding Chair of the Linguistics Department at the University of Connecticut, which became a hotbed for research in experimental phonetics in the 1970s and 1980s because of its many affiliations with Haskins Laboratories. He also served for many years as a board member at Haskins, and Secretary of both the Board and the Haskins Corporation, where he was a friend and mentor to many.
Catalan is a “medium-sized” Romance language spoken by over 10 million speakers, spread over four nation states: Northeastern Spain, Andorra, Southern France, and the city of L’Alguer (Alghero) in Sardinia, Italy. Catalan is divided into two primary dialectal divisions, each with further subvarieties: Western Catalan (Western Catalonia, Eastern Aragon, and Valencian Community) and Eastern Catalan (center and east of Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Rosselló, and l’Alguer). Catalan descends from Vulgar Latin. Catalan expanded during medieval times as one of the primary vernacular languages of the Kingdom of Aragon. It largely retained its role in government and society until the War of Spanish Succession in 1714, and since it has been minoritized. Catalan was finally standardized during the beginning of the 20th century, although later during the Franco dictatorship it was banned in public spaces. The situation changed with the new Spanish Constitution promulgated in 1978, when Catalan was declared co-official with Spanish in Catalonia, the Valencian Community, and the Balearic Islands. The Latin vowel system evolved in Catalan into a system of seven stressed vowels. As in most other Iberian Romance languages, there is a general process of spirantization or lenition of voiced stops. Catalan has a two-gender grammatical system and, as in other Western Romance languages, plurals end in -s; Catalan has a personal article and Balearic Catalan has a two-determiner system for common nouns. Finally, past perfective actions are indicated by a compound tense consisting of the auxiliary verb anar ‘to go’ in present tense plus the infinitive. Catalan is a minoritized language everywhere it is spoken, except in the microstate of Andorra, and it is endangered in France and l’Alguer. The revival of Catalan in the post-dictatorship era is connected with a movement called linguistic normalization. The idea of normalization refers to the aim to return Catalan to a “normal” use at an official level and everyday level as any official language.
Coordination exhibits unusual syntactic properties: the conjuncts need not be identical but they must obey some parallelism constraints, and their number is not limited. Romance languages have conjunctive (‘and’), disjunctive (‘or’), adversative (‘but’), and negative (‘nor’) conjunctions, some of which have a correlative use, such as (French) soit . . . soit, (Italian, Spanish) o . . . o, (Portuguese) quer . . . quer, (Romanian) sau . . . sau (‘either . . . or’). They allow coordination of clauses and phrases but also of words (French: le ou la secrétaire ‘the.m.sg or the.f.sg secretary’) and even some word parts (Italian: pre- o post-moderno ‘pre- or post-modern’). Romance languages show intricate agreement patterns in case of coordination. For number agreement, disjunctive coordination allows for total or partial agreement (Paul ou Marie viendra/viendront. ‘Paul or Mary come.fut.sg/pl’). For gender agreement, conjunctive coordination obeys gender resolution (French: un garçon et une fille gentils ‘a boy.m.sg and a girl.f.sg nice. m.pl’) or closest conjunct agreement (Spanish: El idioma y literatura rusa ‘the language.m.sg and litterature.f.sg Russian.f.sg’). Coordination may also involve nonconstituents (Italian: Darò un libro a Giovanni e un disco a Maria. ‘I’ll give a book to Giovanni and a record to Maria’) and ellipsis, such as gapping (French: Paul arrive demain et Marie aujourd’hui. ‘Paul arrives tomorrow and Mary today’), with possible mismatches between the elided material and its overt antecedent.
The Raeto-Romance varieties, which are spoken in noncontiguous areas reaching from the Grison Alps in Switzerland to the Italian Adriatic coast near the Slovenian border, are characterized by considerable differences from one another at the lexical level. Hence, when describing the Raeto-Romance lexicon, it is important to pay particular attention to which lexical types occur in which main varieties (i.e., in Romansh of Grisons, Dolomitic Ladin and Friulian, secondarily also in subvarieties). The mentioned spatial perspective intersects the chronological perspective that aims at presenting the components of different origin entering the Raeto-Romance varieties in different periods. The pre-Roman lexicon is of rather small extent and contains especially terms of flora, fauna, terrain, farming, tools, and equipment. Within the Latin stratum, the lexicon inherited from late Latin, Romance formations (on the basis of elements of Latin origin) and borrowings from Latin have to be distinguished. All Raeto-Romance varieties have numerous borrowings from Germanic varieties. Early Germanic elements already entered late Latin and are present in Raeto-Romance as well as in the neighboring Romance varieties. Borrowings taking place in different periods of the Middle Ages and the Modern Era as well as borrowings from different regional varieties of German are often marked phonetically. Romansh of Grisons has borrowings from Alemannic dialects; however, its most eastern varieties are also characterized by borrowings from Tyrolean, which belongs to the Bavarian dialects. Dolomitic Ladin has been exposed to the influence of Tyrolean. In Friuli, there was a period of German influence from the Bavarian area in the Middle Ages, followed by a period of orientation toward Venetan, and later toward Italian as well. In Grisons and in the Dolomites, the influence of Italian dialects and Italian characterizes to a higher degree the southern varieties (i.e., Vallader and Puter, subsumed in Engadinese [Grisons], as well as Fascian, Fodom, and Anpezan [Dolomites]). In contrast, more numerous borrowings from German distinguish the northern varieties (i.e., Surselvan, Sutselvan, and Surmiran [Grisons] as well as Badiot and Gardenese [Dolomites]). A component characterizing exclusively Friulian is a borrowing from neighboring Slovene.
Words are the backbone of language activity. An average 20-year-old native speaker of English will have a vocabulary of about 42,000 words. These words are connected with one another within the larger network of lexical knowledge that is termed the mental lexicon. The metaphor of a mental lexicon has played a central role in the development of theories of language and mind and has provided an intellectual meeting ground for psychologists, neurolinguists, and psycholinguists. Research on the mental lexicon has shown that lexical knowledge is not static. New words are acquired throughout the life span, creating very large increases in the richness of connectivity within the lexical system and changing the system as a whole. Because most people in the world speak more than one language, the default mental lexicon may be a multilingual one. Such a mental lexicon differs substantially from a lexicon of an individual language and would lead to the creation of new integrated lexical systems due to the pressure on the system to organize and access lexical knowledge in a homogenous manner. The mental lexicon contains both word knowledge and morphological knowledge. There is also evidence that it contains multiword strings such as idioms and lexical bundles. This speaks in support of a nonrestrictive “big tent” view of units of representation within the mental lexicon. Changes in research on lexical representations in language processing have emphasized lexical action and the role of learning. Although the metaphor of words as distinct representations within a lexical store has served to advance knowledge, it is more likely that words are best seen as networks of activity that are formed and affected by experience and learning throughout the life span.
Negation in Romance offers a wide array of cross-linguistic variation. For what concerns sentential negation, three main strategies are employed depending on the position of the negative marker with respect to the finite verb: some varieties (e.g., Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese) adopt a preverbal particle, others (e.g., Gallo-Italic varieties) a postverbal one, and some others (e.g., French) a combination of both. Negation can also surface in the left-most clausal positions, generally carrying an additional meaning expressed by emphatic polarity particles. The diverse options available in contemporary varieties stemmed from their common ancestor, Latin, through a sequence of (potentially) cyclical grammatical changes captured by the Jespersen’s cycle. A further dimension of variation concerns negative indefinites (N-words) and their interpretation when combined with negation, resulting in strict and nonstrict negative concord depending on the availability of double negation readings in both pre- and postverbal positions or only postverbally. In addition, the evolution of indefinites from Latin to modern Romance languages constitutes its own quantifier’s cycle. This cycle classifies the continuous diachronic changes that have occurred through the centuries into a sequence of discrete steps, imposing constraints on the transition of indefinites from one stage to the next. Despite the great variability in the ways negation is expressed, its interpretive properties are not fully constrained by superficial variations. Logical scope in particular is not bound to the syntactic position where negation surfaces and inverse scope readings are generally possible.
Antonio Fábregas and Rafael Marín
The term nominalization refers to a specific type of category-changing morphological operation that produces nouns from other lexical categories, most productively verbs and adjectives. By extension, it is also used to refer to the resulting derived nouns. In Romance languages, nominalization generally involves addition of a suffix to the base (cf. Italian generoso ‘generous’ > generos-ità ‘generosity’), and such suffixes are called nominalizers. However there are also cases of nouns built from other categories without any overt nominalizer (cf. Spanish inútil ‘useless’ > inútil ‘useless person’); descriptively, this process is called conversion, and it is debatable whether it should also be treated as a nominalization or whether another different kind of morphological operation is involved here. Nominalizations can be divided in several classes depending on a variety of semantic and syntactic factors, such as the type of entities that they denote or the ability to introduce arguments. The main nominalization classes are (a) complex event nominalizations, which come from verbs, can combine with some temporal and aspectual modifiers, and have the ability to introduce at least an internal argument; (b) state nominalizations, which denote states associated to the verbs that serve as their bases; (c) participant nominalizations, which denote different types of arguments of the base, such as agents, resulting objects, locations or recipients; and (d) quality nominalizations, coming from adjectives and more restrictively from verbs, which denote a set of properties related to their base. Different classes of predicates select for different nominalization types, and there is a debate surrounding which tests capture in a more complete way the nuances of this taxonomy. Nominalizers impose different types of restrictions to their bases: aspectual restrictions (individual-level vs. stage-level, (a) telicity, dynamicity, etc.), argument structure restrictions (agent vs. nonagent, different types of internal arguments), morphological restrictions (for instance, selecting only verbs that belong to a particular conjugation class), and finally conceptual restrictions (for instance, showing a strong preference for bases belonging to a particular conceptual domain). In Romance languages, nominalizations sometimes alternate with other word classes, most significantly infinitives (see article on “Infinitival Clauses in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia). Infinitival constructions in Romance can display a mixture of verbal and nominal properties, or be totally recategorized as nouns, and in both cases they can compete with prototypical nominalizations. Less generally, participles (see article on “Participial Relative Clauses” in this encyclopedia), gerunds and supines can also display nominalization properties in some Romance varieties.
Portuguese shares major word-formation mechanisms—affixation, composition, conversion, blending, clipping—with Romance languages, but also displays some peculiarities related to different Latin, Celtiberian, Germanic, and Mozarabic lexical heritages and to the internal dynamics of the language from the 12th to the 21st century. Portuguese has preserved the core of the medieval word-formation framework, but new patterns were of course introduced from time to time, especially during the 20th century. Portuguese word-formation peculiarities are partly conservative, partly innovative; some comply with international trends of word-formation, others depart from them. The proliferation of Neo-Latin compounding and the increase of blending, as well as the introduction of phenomena such as clipping, reanalysis, and grammaticalization illustrate the convergence of modern Portuguese with international word-formation tendencies. In Portuguese, as in other languages, learned suffixes tend to be less productive than the corresponding nonlearned ones coexisting with them. However, in specific cases such as gentilic adjectives/nouns, a learned suffix like -ense could also win over its nonlearned rival (in this case, Pt. -ês/-esa), while in Italian the nonlearned suffix -ese prevails. Apart from peculiar phonological outcomes of some Latin suffixes and the greater weight of interfixation due to phonological and prosodic conditions, the major distinctive traits of Portuguese word-formation include: (a) the unique distribution of the major evaluative suffixes, grounded in subjective/attitudinal values; (b) the subjective meanings associated with several suffixes that are not found in the corresponding suffixes of other Romance languages; (c) the specific set of suffixal resources for forming agentive and instrumental deverbal nouns; and (d) the expansion of the categorial bases selected by some suffixes.