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A radically non-morphemic approach to bidirectional syncretism

Abstract

This paper addresses the question of how certain kinds of overlapping syncretisms in inflectional paradigms can be accounted for that Baerman et al. (Language 80:807–824, 2005) refer to as convergent/divergent bidirectional syncretisms (based on earlier work by Stump, Inflectional morphology, 2001). Bidirectional syncretism strongly resists accounts in terms of standard rules of exponence (or similar devices) that correlate inflection markers with (often underspecified) morpho-syntactic specifications (such rules are used in many morphological theories; e.g., Anderson, A-morphous morphology, 1992; Halle and Marantz in The view from building, pp. 111–176, 1993; Aronoff, Morphology by itself, 1994; Wunderlich in Yearbook of morphology 1995, pp. 93–114, 1996; and Stump, Inflectional morphology, 2001). The reason is that it is difficult to capture overlapping distributions by natural classes. In view of this, rules of referral have been proposed to derive bidirectional syncretism (Stump, Inflectional morphology, 2001; Baerman et al. (Language 80:807–824, 2005)). In contrast, I would like to pursue the hypothesis that systematic instances of overlapping syncretism ultimately motivate a new approach to inflectional morphology—one that fully dispenses with the assumption that morphological exponents are paired with morpho-syntactic feature specifications (and that therefore qualifies as radically non-morphemic): First, rules of exponence are replaced with feature co-occurrence restrictions (FCRs; Gazdar et al., Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar, 1985). For phonologically determined natural classes of exponents, FCRs state incompatibilites with morpho-syntactic feature specifications. Second, marker competition is resolved by a principle of Phonology-driven Marker Selection (PMS). PMS takes over the role of the Specificity (Blocking, Elsewhere, Panini) Principle of standard analyses.

Empirically, the main focus is on Bonan declension; the analysis is subsequently extended to Gujarati conjugation and Latin o-declension, with further remarks on bidirectional syncretism in other inflectional paradigms.

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Correspondence to Gereon Müller.

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For comments and discussion, I would like to thank Sebastian Bank, Petr Biskup, Caroline Féry, Fabian Heck, Philipp Weisser, and particularly Lennart Bierkandt, Jochen Trommer, and two anonymous (and very helpful) reviewers. This work was supported by a DFG grant to the project Argument Encoding in Morphology and Syntax, as part of Research Unit 742.

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Müller, G. A radically non-morphemic approach to bidirectional syncretism. Morphology 23, 245–268 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-013-9224-6

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Keywords

  • Syncretism
  • Bidirectionality
  • Mongolian
  • Latin
  • Gujarati
  • Feature co-occurrence restriction
  • Elsewhere
  • Blocking