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Article

Allomorphy and syncretism are both deviations from the one-to-one relationship between form and meaning inside the linguistic sign as postulated by Saussure as well as from the ideal of inflectional morphology as stipulated in the canonical approach by Corbett. Instances of both phenomena are well documented in all Romance languages. In inflection, allomorphy refers to the use of more than one root/stem in the paradigm of a single lexeme or to the existence of more than one inflectional affix for the same function. Syncretism describes the existence of identical forms with different functions in one and the same paradigm. Verbs exhibiting stem allomorphy are traditionally called irregular, a label that describes the existence of unexpected and, sometimes, unpredictable forms from a learner’s perspective. Extreme forms of allomorphy are called suppletion, for which traditional accounts require two or more etymologically unrelated roots/stems to coexist within the paradigm of a single lexeme. Allomorphy often originates in sound change affecting only stems in a certain phonological environment. When the phonological conditioning of the stem allomorph disappears, which is frequently the case, its distribution within the paradigm may become purely morphological, thus constituting a morphome in the sense of Aronoff. Recurrent patterns of syncretism may also be considered morphomes. Whereas syncretism was quite rare in Latin verb morphology, Romance languages feature it to much greater, if different, degrees. In extreme cases, syncretism patterns become paradigm-structuring in many Gallo-Romance varieties, as is the case in the verb morphology of standard French, where almost all forms are syncretic with at least one other.

Article

The Romance languages inherited from Latin a system of four inflection classes in verbs featuring a dedicated theme vowel (or its absence). The presence of the theme vowel in inflectional forms differs from language to language and from inflection class to inflection class. In Latin, the theme vowels are found in most forms; in Romance, their presence has declined but they are still featured at least in the infinitive of most inflection classes. Most Romance languages simplified the Latin system by reducing the number of inflection classes while retaining the class distinction by theme vowels. In many Romance languages, new inflection classes have evolved. The existence of verbs with a stem-forming augment is often described as a subclass in traditional grammars. But the augment appears in a well-defined set of paradigm cells warranting the introduction of a new class. In a synchronic analysis, French and Oïl varieties show mostly a distinction based on length of the stem or, from another perspective, pattern of syncretism as many forms are homophonous. This is partly due to the fact that some very frequent forms do not feature any longer inflectional suffixes in their phonetic realization (although these are retained in spelling). New irregularities in the stem found in all Romance languages suggest the emergence of an additional class distinction based on the form, number, and distribution of the stems. Morphomic patterns arose which may be interpreted as inflection classes. The most radical change took place in French: Some analyses claim that none of the traditional classes distinguished by theme vowels survives; only stem distinctions may be used to establish inflection classes. Other studies still assume theme vowels in French, at least with verbs ending in -ir in the infinitive. Suppletion or other processes may lead to heteroclisis (i.e., forms of the same verb pertaining to different inflection classes).

Article

Martin Hilpert

The term lexicalization describes the addition of new open-class elements to a repository of holistically processed linguistic units. At the basis of lexicalization are word-formation processes such as affixation, compounding, or borrowing, which are a necessary precondition for lexicalization. Still, lexicalization goes beyond word formation in important respects. First, lexicalization also involves multi-word expressions and set phrases; second, it includes a range of processes that follow the coinage of a new element. These processes conjointly lead to holistic processing, that is, the cognitive treatment of a linguistic element as a unified whole. Holistic processing contrasts with analytic processing, which is the cognitive treatment of a linguistic unit as a complex whole that is composed of several parts. Lexicalization is usefully contrasted with grammaticalization, that is, the emergence of new linguistic units that fulfill grammatical functions. Finally, lexicalization is also a concept that lends itself to the study of cross-linguistic differences in the types of meaning that are lexicalized in specific domains such as, for example, motion.

Article

The aim of this article is to present the morphology and morphosyntax of Trans New Guinea (TNG) languages to a wide audience of linguists. The TNG languages are a family of several hundred languages spoken across much of the New Guinea mainland. The morphology of TNG languages shows a high degree of diversity, from mildly polysynthetic to almost isolating. Language data from virtually all subgroups of TNG can be found here, giving preference to recent descriptions and new data. TNG languages display a clear categorial divide between nouns and verbs. In terms of word formation, they typically allow N-N and V-V compounding. Category-changing derivational processes usually involve overt morphological means. TNG languages are rich in nominalization processes; verbalization processes are less common. Valency-changing derivational processes (causatives, applicatives) are widespread and involve affixation or verb serialization. Many TNG languages have a reduced inventory of verb roots, in extreme cases comprising only as few as 60 recorded roots. Serial verb constructions and light-verb constructions are used to increase the expressive power of the verb lexicon. Besides nouns and verbs, TNG languages have sizable classes of adjectives, small classes of adverbs, and pronouns, directionals, numerals, postpositions, and conjunctions. Nouns have restricted inflectional morphology, with inflection for the possessor being the most widespread. Nominal number is expressed less often and gender is very rare. Peripheral case roles are signaled by postpositions. Many TNG languages show optional ergativity where transitive subjects can be marked by a special case depending on certain semantic or pragmatic factors, such as animacy, agentivity, or focus. Verb morphology is extensive, yielding large paradigms. TNG languages use verbal affixes to express core arguments. Subjects are almost universally indexed with a suffix on the verb. The majority of TNG languages also index the object on the verb, either with a prefix or a suffix. The majority alignment pattern in the clause is accusative. Most TNG languages employ distinct constructions for bodily and mental processes, depending on whether they are controlled by an animate agent (e.g., think) or whether they are manifestations of a stimulus beyond the control of the experiencer (e.g., be angry). Tense, aspect, and mood categories can all be found in TNG languages with one of them usually being dominant. For the expression of aspect, serial verb constructions are common in which the last verb in the serialization has undergone grammaticalization into an aspect marker—for example, a progressive marker which has developed from the verb ‘stay’. In clause chains, almost all TNG languages distinguish between medial and final verbs. Medial verbs morphologically indicate co-reference or disjoint reference of key participants in the discourse, and final verbs provide morphosemantic information like tense, mood, or illocutionary force, which typically applies to the whole clause chain. Since this type of tracking system of continuity in discourse is highly characteristic of TNG in general and less common worldwide, it is treated in more detail here.

Article

Isabel Oltra-Massuet

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.

Article

Martina Werner

In Germanic languages, conversion is seen as a change in category (i.e., syntactic category, word class, part of speech) without (overt) affixation. Conversion is attested in all Germanic languages. The definition of conversion as transposition or as derivation with a so-called zero-affix, which is responsible for the word-class change, depends on the language-specific part-of-speech system as well as, as often argued, the direction of conversion. Different types of conversion (e.g., from adjective to noun) are attested in Germanic languages, which differ especially semantically from each other. Although minor conversion types are attested, the main conversion types in Germanic languages are verb-to-noun conversion (deverbal nouns), adjective-to-noun conversion (deadjectival nouns), and noun-to-verb conversion (denominal verbs). Due to the characteristics of word-class change, conversion displays many parallels to derivational processes such as the directionality of category change and the preservation of lexical and grammatical properties of the underlying stem such as argument structure. Some, however, have argued that conversion does not exist as a specific rule and is only a symptom of lexical relisting. Another question is whether two such words are related by a conversion process that is still productive or are lexically listed relics of a now unproductive process. Furthermore, the direction of conversion of present-day Germanic, for example, the identification of the word class of the input before being converted, is unclear sometimes. Generally, deverbal and deadjectival nominal conversion in Germanic languages is semantically more transparent than denominal and deadjectival verbal conversion: despite the occurrence of some highly frequent, but lexicalized counterexamples, the semantic impact of conversion is only sometimes predictable, slightly more in the nominal domain than in the verbal domain. The semantics of verb formation by conversion (e.g., whether conversion leads to causative readings or not) is hardly predictable. Overall, conversion in Germanic is considered a process with multiple linkages to other morphological phenomena such as derivation, back-formation, and inflectional categories such as grammatical gender. Due to the lack of formal markers, conversion is considered non-iconic. The different kinds of conversions are merely based on language-specific mechanisms, but what all Germanic languages share at least is the ability to form nominal conversion, which is independent of their typological characteristics as isolating-analytic versus inflectional-fusional languages. This is surprising given the crosslinguistic prevalence of verbal conversion in the languages of the world.

Article

Andrew Hippisley

The morphological machinery of a language is at the service of syntax, but the service can be poor. A request may result in the wrong item (deponency), or in an item the syntax already has (syncretism), or in an abundance of choices (inflectional classes or morphological allomorphy). Network Morphology regulates the service by recreating the morphosyntactic space as a network of information sharing nodes, where sharing is through inheritance, and inheritance can be overridden to allow for the regular, irregular, and, crucially, the semiregular. The network expresses the system; the way the network can be accessed expresses possible deviations from the systematic. And so Network Morphology captures the semi-systematic nature of morphology. The key data used to illustrate Network Morphology are noun inflections in the West Slavonic language Lower Sorbian, which has three genders, a rich case system and three numbers. These data allow us to observe how Network Morphology handles inflectional allomorphy, syncretism, feature neutralization, and irregularity. Latin deponent verbs are used to illustrate a Network Morphology account of morphological mismatch, where morphosyntactic features used in the syntax are expressed by morphology regularly used for different features. The analysis points to a separation of syntax and morphology in the architecture of the grammar. An account is given of Russian nominal derivation which assumes such a separation, and is based on viewing derivational morphology as lexical relatedness. Areas of the framework receiving special focus include default inheritance, global and local inheritance, default inference, and orthogonal multiple inheritance. The various accounts presented are expressed in the lexical knowledge representation language DATR, due to Roger Evans and Gerald Gazdar.

Article

Over the past decades, psycholinguistic aspects of word processing have made a considerable impact on views of language theory and language architecture. In the quest for the principles governing the ways human speakers perceive, store, access, and produce words, inflection issues have provided a challenging realm of scientific inquiry, and a battlefield for radically opposing views. It is somewhat ironic that some of the most influential cognitive models of inflection have long been based on evidence from an inflectionally impoverished language like English, where the notions of inflectional regularity, (de)composability, predictability, phonological complexity, and default productivity appear to be mutually implied. An analysis of more “complex” inflection systems such as those of Romance languages shows that this mutual implication is not a universal property of inflection, but a contingency of poorly contrastive, nearly isolating inflection systems. Far from presenting minor faults in a solid, theoretical edifice, Romance evidence appears to call into question the subdivision of labor between rules and exceptions, the on-line processing vs. long-term memory dichotomy, and the distinction between morphological processes and lexical representations. A dynamic, learning-based view of inflection is more compatible with this data, whereby morphological structure is an emergent property of the ways inflected forms are processed and stored, grounded in universal principles of lexical self-organization and their neuro-functional correlates.