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Article

Franz Rainer

Blocking can be defined as the non-occurrence of some linguistic form, whose existence could be expected on general grounds, due to the existence of a rival form. *Oxes, for example, is blocked by oxen, *stealer by thief. Although blocking is closely associated with morphology, in reality the competing “forms” can not only be morphemes or words, but can also be syntactic units. In German, for example, the compound Rotwein ‘red wine’ blocks the phrasal unit *roter Wein (in the relevant sense), just as the phrasal unit rote Rübe ‘beetroot; lit. red beet’ blocks the compound *Rotrübe. In these examples, one crucial factor determining blocking is synonymy; speakers apparently have a deep-rooted presumption against synonyms. Whether homonymy can also lead to a similar avoidance strategy, is still controversial. But even if homonymy blocking exists, it certainly is much less systematic than synonymy blocking. In all the examples mentioned above, it is a word stored in the mental lexicon that blocks a rival formation. However, besides such cases of lexical blocking, one can observe blocking among productive patterns. Dutch has three suffixes for deriving agent nouns from verbal bases, -er, -der, and -aar. Of these three suffixes, the first one is the default choice, while -der and -aar are chosen in very specific phonological environments: as Geert Booij describes in The Morphology of Dutch (2002), “the suffix -aar occurs after stems ending in a coronal sonorant consonant preceded by schwa, and -der occurs after stems ending in /r/” (p. 122). Contrary to lexical blocking, the effect of this kind of pattern blocking does not depend on words stored in the mental lexicon and their token frequency but on abstract features (in the case at hand, phonological features). Blocking was first recognized by the Indian grammarian Pāṇini in the 5th or 4th century bc, when he stated that of two competing rules, the more restricted one had precedence. In the 1960s, this insight was revived by generative grammarians under the name “Elsewhere Principle,” which is still used in several grammatical theories (Distributed Morphology and Paradigm Function Morphology, among others). Alternatively, other theories, which go back to the German linguist Hermann Paul, have tackled the phenomenon on the basis of the mental lexicon. The great advantage of this latter approach is that it can account, in a natural way, for the crucial role played by frequency. Frequency is also crucial in the most promising theory, so-called statistical pre-emption, of how blocking can be learned.

Article

Ljuba N. Veselinova

The term suppletion is used to indicate the unpredictable encoding of otherwise regular semantic or grammatical relations. Standard examples in English include the present and past tense of the verb go, cf. go vs. went, or the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives such as good or bad, cf. good vs. better vs. best, or bad vs. worse vs. worst. The complementary distribution of different forms to express a paradigmatic contrast has been noticed already in early grammatical traditions. However, the idea that a special form would supply missing forms in a paradigm was first introduced by the neogrammarian Hermann Osthoff, in his work of 1899. The concept of suppletion was consolidated in modern linguistics by Leonard Bloomfield, in 1926. Since then, the notion has been applied to both affixes and stems. In addition to the application of the concept to linguistic units of varying morpho-syntactic status, such as affixes, or stems of different lexical classes such as, for instance, verbs, adjectives, or nouns, the student should also be prepared to encounter frequent discrepancies between uses of the concept in the theoretical literature and its application in more descriptively oriented work. There are models in which the term suppletion is restricted to exceptions to inflectional patterns only; consequently, exceptions to derivational patterns are not accepted as instantiations of the phenomenon. Thus, the comparative degrees of adjectives will be, at best, less prototypical examples of suppletion. Treatments of the phenomenon vary widely, to the point of being complete opposites. A strong tendency exists to regard suppletion as an anomaly, a historical artifact, and generally of little theoretical interest. A countertendency is to view the phenomenon as challenging, but nonetheless very important for adequate theory formation. Finally, there are scholars who view suppletion as a functionally motivated result of language change. For a long time, the database on suppletion, similarly to many other phenomena, was restricted to Indo-European languages. With the solidifying of wider cross-linguistic research and linguistic typology since the 1990s, the database on suppletion has been substantially extended. Large-scale cross-linguistic studies have shown that the phenomenon is observed in many different languages around the globe. In addition, it appears as a systematic cross-linguistic phenomenon in that it can be correlated with well-defined language areas, language families, specific lexemic groups, and specific slots in paradigms. The latter can be shown to follow general markedness universals. Finally, the lexemes that show suppletion tend to have special functions in both lexicon and grammar.

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

Pronouns are words that represent morphosyntactic features of nominal referents located somewhere else in the sentence or the context. They display the highest degree of morphosyntactic exponence in the nominal domain, including features of person, gender, number, case, animacy, and social relationship. The Germanic languages make use of a common set of pronoun roots in order to form the paradigms of demonstrative, personal, reflexive, interrogative, and indefinite pronouns. Selection and inflection are language specific: for example, the Germanic demonstrative pronoun root *þat developed to the uninflected distal demonstrative that in English, while in German it forms part of the inflectional paradigm of the proximal demonstrative der, die, das. Reciprocal, relative, and possessive pronouns do not have autonomous roots; their forms are derived from the previously mentioned classes; compare the English relative pronouns that (< demonstrative), what, who, whose, which (< interrogative). Suppletion occurs in many paradigms, especially with person features, for example, English first person I, second person you. The 13 Germanic standard languages, Icelandic, Faroese, German, Luxembourgish, Yiddish, Danish, Swedish, Bokmål, Nynorsk, Dutch, Frisian, English, and Afrikaans, form a continuum in which Icelandic is closest to the Germanic roots and has most distinctions while Afrikaans has the least. Often the paradigm structure mirrors the geographical subdivision in Scandinavian and West Germanic. However, in some aspects German (and Luxembourgish, Yiddish) cluster with Insular Scandinavian while Mainland Scandinavian is structurally closer to the rest of the West Germanic languages. Adnominal usage of pronouns and their usage as independent constituents is only in rare cases morphologically distinguished, for example, English adnominal possessive your versus independent pronouns yours.

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).