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Word construction: tracing an optimal path through the lexicon

Abstract

Optimal Construction Morphology (OCM) is a new construction-based theory of morphology that selects the optimal combination of lexical constructions to best achieve a target meaning. OCM combines elements of realizational and item-based morphological theories. It is realizational, in that words are constructed in response to a given meaning target. It is incremental in that words are built from lexical structures, one layer at a time. It is optimizing in that, in response to a meaning target, the morphological grammar dips into the lexicon, building and assessing morphological constituents incrementally until the word being built optimally matches the target meaning. In this paper OCM is shown to illuminate a vexing optimization puzzle confronted by all theories of morphology: why is redundancy in morphology rejected as ungrammatical in some situations (“blocking”), but absolutely required in others (“multiple/extended exponence”)? The OCM analysis incorporates two notions of morphological strength that have been proposed in the literature: stem type, on a scale from root (weakest) to word (strongest), and exponence strength, related to productivity and parsability.

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Correspondence to Gabriela Caballero.

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Caballero, G., Inkelas, S. Word construction: tracing an optimal path through the lexicon. Morphology 23, 103–143 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-013-9220-x

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Keywords

  • Morphology
  • Multiple exponence
  • Extended exponence
  • Blocking
  • Optimization
  • Redundancy
  • Morphological strength
  • Stem type
  • Empty morphs