323 Morphology

323 Morphology
The Structure of Words
1.1 What is Morphology?
Morphology is the internal structure of
V: walk, walk+s, walk+ed, walk+ing
N: dog, dog+s
A: cold, cold+er, cold+est
conceptual (logical) form (meaning within grammar)
argument structure
One morpheme or two
tax /tæks/: one morpheme
tacks /tæks/: two morphemes: tack+s
lapse /læps/: one morpheme
laps /læps/: two morpheme: lap+s
Words containing two or more morphemes are called complex words.
1.1 What is Morphology?
Definition 1 (Haspelmath)
Morphology is the systematic covariation in the form and meaning of words.
Definition 1 (DeArmond)
Morphology is the systematic covariation in the form, function and sign of
Form refers to whether a morpheme is a root, base, stem, affix or clitic.
Function includes meaning. Some morphemes have no meaning.
Sign refers to the phonological representation of a morpheme.
Definition 2 (Haspelmath & DeArmond)
Morphology is the study of the combination of morphemes to yield words
This definition does not work in all cases.
The term morphology is ambiguous in that it may refer to the study of morphology
as a discipline or to the morphology of a specific language such as Sanskrit.
1.2 Morphology in Different Languages
A particular language may express a certain function through morphology —
the use of inflectional or derivational affixes:
English plural: affix (suffix): book, book+s
Or plurality may be expressed by a distinct word:
Yoruba: okùnrin man, àwon okùnrin men.
Actually, English uses both methods to form the comparative and superlative of
red, redd+er, redd+est (positive, comparative, superlative)
stupid, more stupid, most stupid.
Today, many younger speakers tend to use both methods:
more redder (or sometimes more red)
Synthetic, Analytic and Isolating
These terms refer to the degree which affixes are used:
Synthetic refers to systems where affixation is used frequently to
express certain functions:
Russian, Czech, Sanskrit, Latin, German, Japanese
Analytic refers to systems where affixation is modestly used:
English, Dutch, Frisian, Swedish.
Polysynthetic refers to systems where there is frequent affixation and
perhaps compounding and phrasal incorporation:
Greenlandic Eskimo (Inuit), Turkish, Salishan languages.
1.3 The Goals of Morphological Research
The goal of morphological research is to observe (account for all data),
describe (determine the best analysis) and to explain the
morphological patterns of human languages.
Elegant description
all languages should be described in an elegant and intuitively
satisfactory way:
the past tense is formed by adding the suffix “ed” to the left of the
stem (basic form of verb) — elegant
many computer programs list the present tense form and then the
past tense form: play, played; walk, walked; punch,
punched — inelegant.
elegant includes simplicity.
elegant includes generality.
Cognitive realistic description
A description should be related to a speaker’s cognitive apparatus that
the speaker has unconsciously arrived at.
In English, speakers subconsciously add -ed to new verbs, e.g.
“tomb” -> “tombed” in the past tense. This can be done
consciously, but not necessarily.
1.3 The Goals of Morphological Research
A computer that lists the present and the past forms cannot produce the past
tense of “tomb”. However, it possible to write a computer program that will do it. The
hard part is writing the program. The easy part is feeding the information to the
computer to compute. E.g. tomb+[past] -> tombed. (I’ve tried it.)
System-external explanation
This trying to explain certain phenomena that occur outside the language
system. H. mentions the case of plural forms. Whatever the language, the forms are
the result of historical accidence, not by any universal property of language. We can
also cite the past tense morpheme of languages. English has four variants of the
morpheme: the default (regular) form “-ed”, the non-default forms “-t”, “-d”. and the
past tense of verbs marked by a change in the vowel: sing, sang, sung. All these
variants are the result of historical accidence.
H. mentions a possible universal citing Corbett:
If a language has morphological plural forms of nouns at all, it will have
plurals of nouns denoting people.
One must be careful of the proposed universals. It is common for a universal to
be disproved by languages which who them not to be true. This one could be
true, and it seems to make sense, as people are the most important things in
all human languages.
1.4 The Goals of Morphological Research
A restrictive architecture for description
Constraints are developed for a grammatical description (grammar). For
example, in syntax phrases and in some languages words may or must be
fronted to the beginning of the sentence:
John bought a new car.
What did John buy?
However, parts of a word (morphemes and words making up a compound
word) may not be fronted leaving the rest of the word behind:
John bought books.
*S John bought book.
*Book John bought s.
John slept in the doghouse.
The doghouse John slept in.
*House John slept in the dog.
*Dog John slept in the house.
H suggests that the following may be a possible architecture:
synt ax
1.4 The Goals of Morphological Research
I consider H’s architecture inadequate. I prefer the following:
synt ax
C-L = Concept ual-logical
The right arrow indicates the projection of sound from meaning (to the listener) and the left
arrow indicates the interpretation of the sound to determine the meaning. The lexicon plays a
very important role in the architecture of grammar.
1.4 The Goals of Morphological Research