Distributed Morphology (DM) is a framework in theoretical morphology, characterized by two core tenets: (i) that the internal hierarchical structure of words is, in the first instance, syntactic (complex words are derived syntactically), and (ii) that the syntax operates on abstract morphemes, defined in terms of morphosyntactic features, and that the spell-out (realization, exponence) of these abstract morphemes occurs after the syntax. Distributing the functions of the classical morpheme in this way allows for analysis of mismatches between the minimal units of grammatical combination and the minimal units of sound. Much work within the framework is nevertheless guided by seeking to understand restrictions on such mismatches, balancing the need for the detailed description of complex morphological data in individual languages against an attempt to explain broad patterns in terms of restrictions imposed by grammatical principles.
Jonathan David Bobaljik
Rik van Gijn
Switch reference is a grammaticalized system for marking continuity or discontinuity of reference between two clauses. It is therefore not surprising that switch reference has received a lot of attention from syntacticians. From the syntactic discussions of switch reference, it has become clear that switch reference is far from a unified phenomenon, as it seems to range between a strictly syntactic system in some languages and a pragmatically driven marker of discourse cohesion in others. Switch reference involves the marking of (dis)continuity, and switch reference markers are more often than not morphological units. This means that, apart from the syntactic side, switch reference has a morphological side as well. The morphology of switch reference has received far less attention than its syntax and semantics. Although there are clear tendencies with respect to the morphological characteristics of switch reference markers (they tend to be inflectional suffixes that take a verb as their host), their characteristics are by no means uniform across languages. Switch reference is not always clearly an inflectional category, nor is it always expressed strictly morphologically, but rather by clitics or phonologically free words. Languages may furthermore have dedicated switch reference marking, but in many cases, switch reference is expressed in combination with other categories sharing the exponent. Paradigms of switch reference markers may show several types of asymmetries, whether to do with markedness, (co-)exponence, or different morphosyntactic behavior. A possible reason for the diversity found in switch reference markers, sometimes within the same language, may be the diverse origins of the markers: they may for instance stem from gapping structures, nonfinite verb morphology, pronouns, deictic elements, conjunction markers, or case markers.
Louise Esher, Franck Floricic, and Martin Maiden
The term finite morphology corresponds to the morphological expression of person and number and of tense, mood, and aspect in the verb. In Romance languages, these features are typically expressed “synthetically,” that is, in single word forms. These latter generally comprise a ‘root’, usually leftmost in the word, which conveys the lexical meaning of the verb, and material to the right of the root which conveys most of the grammatical meaning. But lexical and grammatical information is also characteristically ‘compressed’, or ‘conflated’ within the word, in that it can be impossible to tease apart exponents of the grammatical meanings or to extricate the expression of lexical meaning from that of grammatical meaning. The range of grammatical meanings encoded in Romance finite verb forms can vary considerably cross-linguistically. At the extremes, there are languages that have three tenses of the subjunctive, and others that have no synthetic future-tense form, and others that have two future-tense forms or no (synthetic) past-tense forms. There can also be extreme mismatches between meanings and the forms that express them: again, at the extremes, meanings may be present without formal expression, or forms may appear which correspond to no coherent meaning. Both for desinences and for patterns of root allomorphy, variation is observed with respect to the features expressed and their morphological exponence. While some categories of Latin finite synthetic verb morphology have been entirely lost, many forms are continued, with or without functional continuity. An innovation of many Romance varieties is the emergence of a new synthetic future and conditional from a periphrasis originally expressing deontic modality.
The Altaic languages (Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic) are spread across Eurasia, from Central Asia to the Middle East and the Balkans. The genetic affinity between these subgroups has not been definitively established but the commonality among features and patterns points to some linguistic connections. The main morphological operations in Altaic languages are suffixation and compounding. Generally regarded as morphologically regular with easily identifiable suffixes in which there are clear form-meaning correspondences, the languages, nevertheless, show irregularities in many domains of the phonological exponents of morphosyntactic features, such as base modification, cumulative exponence, and syncretism. Nouns are inflected for number, person, and case. Case markers can express structural relations between noun phrases and other constituents, or they can act as adpositions. Only very few of the Altaic languages have adjectival inflection. Verbs are inflected for voice, negation, tense, aspect, modality, and, in most of the languages subject agreement, varying between one and five person-number paradigms. Subject agreement is expressed through first, second, and third persons singular and plural. In the expression of tense, aspect, and modality, Altaic languages employ predominantly suffixing and compound verb formations, which involve auxiliary verbs. Inflected finite verbs can stand on their own and form propositions, and as a result, information structure can be expressed within a polymorphic word through prosodic means. Affix order is mostly fixed and mismatches occur between morpholotactic constraints and syntactico-semantic requirements. Ellipsis can occur between coordinated words. Derivational morphology is productive and occurs between and within the major word classes of nominals and verbs. Semantic categories can block other semantic categories.
Eystein Dahl and Antonio Fábregas
Zero or null morphology refers to morphological units that are devoid of phonological content. Whether such entities should be postulated is one of the most controversial issues in morphological theory, with disagreements in how the concept should be delimited, what would count as an instance of zero morphology inside a particular theory, and whether such objects should be allowed even as mere analytical instruments. With respect to the first problem, given that zero morphology is a hypothesis that comes from certain analyses, delimiting what counts as a zero morpheme is not a trivial matter. The concept must be carefully differentiated from others that intuitively also involve situations where there is no overt morphological marking: cumulative morphology, phonological deletion, etc. About the second issue, what counts as null can also depend on the specific theories where the proposal is made. In the strict sense, zero morphology involves a complete morphosyntactic representation that is associated to zero phonological content, but there are other notions of zero morphology that differ from the one discussed here, such as absolute absence of morphological expression, in addition to specific theory-internal interpretations of what counts as null. Thus, it is also important to consider the different ways in which something can be morphologically silent. Finally, with respect to the third side of the debate, arguments are made for and against zero morphology, notably from the perspectives of falsifiability, acquisition, and psycholinguistics. Of particular impact is the question of which properties a theory should have in order to block the possibility that zero morphology exists, and conversely the properties that theories that accept zero morphology associate to null morphemes. An important ingredient in this debate has to do with two empirical domains: zero derivation and paradigmatic uniformity. Ultimately, the plausibility that zero morphemes exist or not depends on the success at accounting for these two empirical patterns in a better way than theories that ban zero morphology.
Thomas W. Stewart
Segment-level alternations that realize morphological properties or that have other morphological significance stand either at an interface or along a continuum between phonology and morphology. The typical source for morphologically correlated sound alternations is the automatic phonology, interacting with discrete morphological operations such as affixation. Traditional morphophonology depends on the association of an alternation with a distinct concatenative marker, but the rise of stem changes that are in themselves morphological markers, be they inflectional or derivational, resides in the fading of phonetic motivation in the conditioning environment, and thus an increase in independence from historical phonological sources. The clearest cases are sole-exponent alternations, such as English man~men or slide~slid, but it is not necessary that the remainder of an earlier conditioning affix be entirely absent, only that synchronic conditioning is fully opaque. Once a sound-structural pattern escapes the unexceptional workings of a language's general phonological patterning, yet reliably serves a signifying function for one or more morphological properties, the morphological component of the grammar bears a primary if not sole responsibility for accounting for the pattern’s distribution. It is not uncommon for the transition of analysis into morphology from (morpho)phonology to be a fitful one. There is an established tendency for phonological theory to hold sway in matters of sound generally, even at the expense of challenging learnability through the introduction of remote representations, ad hoc triggering devices, or putative rules of phonology of very limited generality. On the morphological side, a bias in favor of separable morpheme-like units and syntax-like concatenative dynamics has relegated relations like stem alternations to the margins, no matter how regular, productive, or distinct from general phonological patterns in the language in question overall. This parallel focus of each component on a "specialization" as it were has left exactly morphologically significant stem alternations such as Germanic Ablaut and Celtic initial-consonant mutation poorly served. In both families, these robust sound patterns generally lack reliable synchronic phonological conditioning. Instead, one must crucially refer to grammatical structure and morphological properties in order to account for their distributions. It is no coincidence that such stem alternations look phonological, just as fossils resemble the forms of the organisms that left them. The work of morphology likewise does not depend on alternant segments sharing aspects of sound, but the salience of the system may benefit from perceptible coherence of form. One may observe what sound relations exist between stem alternants, but it is neither necessary nor realistic to oblige a speaker/learner to generate established stem alternations anew from remote underlying representations, as if the alternations were always still arising; to do so constitutes a grafting of the technique of internal reconstruction as a recapitulating simulation within the synchronic grammar.
This article discusses several important phonological issues concerning subtractive processes in morphology. First, this article addresses the scope of subtractive processes that linguistic theories should be concerned with. Many subtractive processes fall in the realm of grammatical theories. Subsequently, previous processual and affixal approaches to subtractive morphology and nonconcatenative allomorphy are reviewed. Then, theoretical restrictiveness is taken up. Proponents of the affixal view often claim that it is more restrictive than the processual view, but their argument is not convincing. We do not know enough to discuss theoretical restrictiveness. Finally, earlier analyses of subtractive morphology in parallel and serial Optimality Theory are reviewed. We have not accomplished enough in this respect, so no conclusive choice of parallelism or serialism is possible at present. As a whole, there are too many unsettled matters to conclude about the nature of subtractive processes in morphology.
Conjugation classes have been defined as the set of all forms of a verb that spell out all possible morphosyntactic categories of person, number, tense, aspect, mood, and/or other additional categories that the language expresses in verbs. Theme vowels instantiate conjugation classes as purely morphological markers; that is, they determine the verb’s morphophonological surface shape but not its syntactic or semantic properties. They typically split the vocabulary items of the category verb into groups that spellout morphosyntactic and morphosemantic feature specifications with the same inflectional affixes. The bond between verbs and their conjugational marking is idiosyncratic, and cannot be established on semantic, syntactic, or phonological grounds, although there have been serious attempts at finding a systematic correlation. The existence of theme vowels and arbitrary conjugation classes has been taken by lexicalist theories as empirical evidence to argue against syntactic approaches to word formation and are used as one of the main arguments for the autonomy of morphology. They further raise questions on the nature of basic morphological notions such as stems or paradigms and serve as a good empirical ground for theories of allomorphy and syncretism, or to test psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic theories of productivity, full decomposition, and storage. Conjugations and their instantiation via theme vowels may also be a challenge for theories of first language acquisition and the learning of morphological categories devoid of any semantic meaning or syntactic alignment that extend to second language acquisition as well. Thus, analyzing their nature, their representation, and their place in grammar is crucial as the approach to these units can have profound effects on linguistic theory and the architecture of grammar.