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Article

Speakers can transfer meanings to each other because they represent them in a perceptible form. Phonology and syntactic structure are two levels of linguistic form. Morphemes are situated in-between them. Like phonemes they have a phonological component, and like syntactic structures they carry relational information. A distinction can be made between inflectional and lexical morphology. Both are devices in the service of communicative efficiency, by highlighting grammatical and semantic relations, respectively. Morphological structure has also been studied in psycholinguistics, especially by researchers who are interested in the process of visual word recognition. They found that a word is recognized more easily when it belongs to a large morphological family, which suggests that the mental lexicon is structured along morphological lines. The semantic transparency of a word’s morphological structure plays an important role. Several findings also suggest that morphology plays an important role at a pre-lexical processing level as well. It seems that morphologically complex words are subjected to a process of blind morphological decomposition before lexical access is attempted.

Article

Pius ten Hacken

The scope of classical generative morphology is not clearly determined. All three components need clarification. The boundaries of what counts as generative linguistics are not unambiguously set, but it can be assumed that all generative work in linguistics is inspired by the work of Noam Chomsky. Morphology was a much more prominent component of linguistic theory in earlier approaches, but of course the subject field had to be accounted for also in generative linguistics. The label classical can be seen as restricting the scope both to the more mainstream approaches and to a period that ends before the present. Here, the early 1990s will be taken as the time when classical theorizing gave way to contemporary generative morphology. In the earliest presentations of generative linguistics, there was no lexicon. The introduction of the lexicon made many of the ideas formulated before obsolete. Chomsky’s Lexicalist Hypothesis provided the basis for a new start of research in morphology. Two contrasting elaborations appeared in the early 1970s. Halle proposed a model based on the combination of morphemes, Jackendoff one based on the representation and analysis of full words. Against this background, a number of characteristic issues were discussed in the 1970s and 1980s. One such issue was the form of rules. Here there was a shift from transformations to rewrite rules. This shift can be seen particularly well in the discussion of verbal compounds, e.g., truck driver. The question whether and how morphology should be distinguished from syntax generated a lot of discussion. Another broad question was the degree to which rules of morphology should be thought of as operating in separate components. This can be observed in the issue of the distinction of inflection and derivation and in level ordering. The latter was a proposal to divide affixes into classes with different phonological and other effects on the base they attach to. A side effect of level ordering was the appearance of bracketing paradoxes, where, for instance, generative grammarian has a phonological constituent grammarian but a semantic constituent generative grammar. Another aspect of rule application which can be constructed as a difference between morphology and syntax is productivity. In general, syntactic rules are more productive and morphological rules display blocking effects, where, for instance, unpossible is blocked by the existence of impossible. Being classical, much of the discussions in this period serves as a shared background for the emergence and discussion of current generative approaches in morphology. The transition to these theories started in the 1990s, although some of them appeared only in the early 2000s.

Article

Ljuba N. Veselinova

This article provides an overview of approaches to numerals within the field of morphology. As is well known, any strict separation between morphology, semantics and syntax is hardly feasible. However, to the extent possible, this study is focused on reviewing approaches to the structural properties of numerals much more than on studies of their uses or integration with other language units. A survey of the pertinent literature shows that there is an imbalance in the study of different kinds of numerals: cardinals have been studied in greater detail than any other kinds of numerals. The morpho-syntactic aspects of cardinal numerals have been discussed in a number of works but corresponding analyses remain in demand for most numeral derivatives, other than ordinals and distributives. Cardinal numerals have been shown to share features with some open word classes, most often with adjectives for the lower members of the set and with nouns for the higher members of the set. However, it has also been pointed out that cardinal numerals remain distinct from other word classes, and this distinction is best described in semantic terms. The use of cardinal numerals as sole or redundant markers of plurality is often related to semantic factors such as animacy and individuation, in some cases also to focus and referentiality. There are different views on whether cardinals in a phrase such as numeral noun should be regarded as heads or not. Among numeral derivatives, complex cardinals, distributive and ordinal numerals have been studied most. There is hardly any comparative work on other known numeral derivations such as multiplicatives, frequentatives, group numerals, approximatives. Currently ongoing projects highlight the cross-linguistic frequency of ordinals and distributives compared to other numerals as well as the need to discuss the basic-derived relation for all numeral derivatives and finally, the relation between numeral derivations and classifier systems on other numeral derivations. Other topics pertinent to the wider topics of numerals in morphology concern the analysis of more derivational patterns and way(s) numerals can be included there as well as operations of conversion whereby numerals are used for the expression of approximate quantities or non-numerical concepts.

Article

Grammaticalization is traditionally defined as the gradual process whereby a lexical item becomes a grammatical item (primary grammaticalization), which may be followed by further formal and semantic reduction (secondary grammaticalization). It is a composite change that may affect both phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic-pragmatic properties of a morpheme, and it is found in all the world’s languages. On the level of morphology, grammaticalization has been shown to have various effects, ranging from the loss of inflection in primary grammaticalization to the development of bound morphemes or new inflectional classes in secondary grammaticalization. Well-known examples include the development of future auxiliaries from motion verbs (e.g., English to be going to), and the development of the Romance inflection future (e.g., French chanter-ai ‘I sing’, chanter-as ‘you sing’, etc., from a verb meaning ‘to have’). Although lexical-grammatical change is overwhelmingly unidirectional, shifts in the reverse direction, called degrammaticalization, have also been shown to occur. Like grammaticalization, degrammaticalization is a composite change, which is characterized by an increase in phonological and semantic substance as well as in morphosyntactic autonomy. Accordingly, the effects on morphology are different from those in grammaticalization. In primary degrammaticalization new inflections may be acquired (e.g., the Welsh verb nôl ‘to fetch,’ from an adposition meaning ‘after’), and erstwhile bound morphemes may become free morphemes (e.g., English ish). As such effects are also found in other types of changes, degrammaticalization needs to be clearly delineated from those. For example, a shift from a minor to a major category (e.g., English ifs and buts) or the lexicalization of bound affixes (isms), likewise result in new inflections, but these are instantaneous changes, not gradual ones.

Article

Kristel Van Goethem

Affixation is the morphological process that consists of adding an affix (i.e., a bound morpheme) to a morphological base. It is cross-linguistically the most common process that human languages use to derive new lexemes (derivational affixation) or to adapt a word’s form to its morphosyntactic context (inflectional affixation). Suffixes (i.e., bound morphemes following the base) and prefixes (i.e., bound morphemes preceding the base) are the most common affixes, with suffixation being more frequently recorded in the world’s languages than prefixation. Minor types of affixation include circumfixation and infixation. Conversion and back-formation are related derivational processes that do not make use of affixation. Many studies have concentrated on the need to differentiate derivation from inflection, but these morphological processes are probably best described as two end points of a cline. Prototypically, derivation is used to change a word’s category (part of speech) and involves a semantic change. A word’s inflectional distinctions make up its paradigm, which amounts to the different morphological forms that correlate with different morphosyntactic functions. Form-function mapping in (derivational and inflectional) affixation is a key issue in current research on affixation. Many deviations from the canonical One Form-One Meaning principle can be observed in the field of affixation. From a diachronic point of view, it has been demonstrated that affixes often derive from free lexemes by grammaticalization, with affixoids being recognized as an intermediate step on this cline. More controversial, but still attested, is the opposite change whereby affixes and affixoids develop into free morphemes through a process of degrammaticalization.

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

Giorgio Francesco Arcodia and Bianca Basciano

Sino-Tibetan is a highly diverse language family, in which a wide range of morphological phenomena and profiles may be found. The family is generally seen as split into two major branches, i.e., Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman, but while Sinitic is a fairly homogeneous group in terms of morphology, the so-called Tibeto-Burman branch of the family includes isolating languages like Karen, languages with transparent and regular agglutinative morphology (Lolo-Burmese, Tibetic, and Boro-Garo), but also paradigmatically complex languages, with elaborate argument indexation and transitivity management systems; while in some languages morphological complexity is mostly a conservative trait (e.g., Rgyalrongic and Kiranti), other languages developed innovative paradigms, with only few vestiges of the archaic system (Kuki-Chin). Some notable morphological phenomena in modern Tibeto-Burman languages are verb stem alternation, peculiar nominalization constructions, and long sequences of prefixes, which in some languages (Chintang) may even be freely permutated without any relevant change in meaning. Also, while Sinitic languages are normally taken to be a prototypical example of the (ideal) isolating morphological type (with virtually no inflection, stable morpheme boundaries, no cumulative exponence, and no allomorphy or suppletion), phenomena of strong reduction of morphemes, blurring of morpheme boundaries and fusion between root and suffix, and nonconcatenative morphology, as well as allomorphy and (proto-)paradigmatic organization of morphology, are attested in some Chinese dialects, mostly concentrated in an area of Northern China (Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei, and Shandong provinces). Moreover, ‘Altaic-type’ agglutinative morphology, including case marking, is found in Sinitic languages of the so-called Qinghai-Gansu Sprachbund; in this case, the development of agglutination, as well as other typological traits (as SOV word order), is clearly the product of intense and prolonged contact between Northwestern Chinese dialects and Tibetic and Mongolic languages of China. On the other hand, Southern Chinese dialects have developed in closer contact with Hmong-Mien, Tai-Kadai, and Austroasiatic languages, and are thus closer to the typology of Mainland Southeast Asian languages, with a very strong isolating profile.

Article

Neurolinguistic approaches to morphology include the main theories of morphological representation and processing in the human mind, such as full-listing, full-parsing, and hybrid dual-route models, and how the experimental evidence that has been acquired to support these theories uses different neurolinguistic paradigms (visual and auditory priming, violation, long-lag priming, picture-word interference, etc.) and methods (electroencephalography [EEG]/event-related brain potential [ERP], functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI], neuropsychology, and so forth).