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Paradigm structure and predictability in derivational morphology

Abstract

In this paper we address the usefulness of the notion of a paradigm in the context of derivational morphology. We first define a notion of paradigmatic system that extends conservatively the notion as it is used in inflection so as to be applicable to collections of structured families of derivationally-related words. We then build on this definition in an empirical quantitative study of derivational families of verbs in French. We apply information-theoretic measures of predictability initially designed by Ackerman et al. (2009) in the context of inflection. We conclude that key quantitative properties are common to inflectional and derivational paradigmatic systems, and hence that (partial) paradigms are an important ingredient of the study of derivation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Matthews (2001, 50–51) notes that this use of ‘paradigm’ originates in Hjelmslev (1938).

  2. 2.

    For readability we use ‘derivational family’ as a shortcut for ‘morphological family of derivationally-related words’. See Sect. 2 for more precise definitions.

  3. 3.

    Although we will use a bit of mathematical notation for the sake of explicitness, the following obviously cannot be taken to be a full formalization of the notion of a paradigmatic system.

  4. 4.

    See Strnadová (2014, chap. 4) for relevant discussion of measures of regularity of the morphological relation between two words. Strnadová argues that the generalisability of a pattern across word pairs is a more relevant measure than similarity between the two words, although some combination of these two criteria is probably optimal.

  5. 5.

    Taking families to be tuples rather than sets will be convenient when defining alignment below. Nothing however hinges on the order of the elements of the family.

  6. 6.

    Remember that our notion of content encompasses morphosyntactic properties: hence two words may be strict synonyms but still not have the same content. This is the case of contrasting forms of a lexeme differing only in the realization of contextual inflection, such as contrasting forms of French adjectives discussed above.

  7. 7.

    Note that this is exactly parallel to the way Bonami and Stump (2016) suggest to address overabundance in Paradigm Function Morphology.

  8. 8.

    Also note that combinations of suppletion and overabundance are also found in the context of inflection, as discussed in Grossman and Thornton (forthcoming), Thornton (forthcoming).

  9. 9.

    We rely on conventional orthography in the case of Czech, since it is transparent enough. For French we use phonemic transcriptions, as mute orthographic letters introduce confusion as to the nature of the patterns of alternation.

  10. 10.

    Note that the PCFP is formulated as a question of linguistic structure (what licences inferences) rather than a question of psycholinguistic processing (what inferences are actually drawn by speakers). There is a long tradition of addressing the psycholinguistic question: wug tests and morphological priming tasks can both be seen as assessing the role of paradigmatic inferences in processing. However, the research questions in the service of which these tasks have been put often have little to do with the PCFP. In this paper we focus on the linguistic issue and on methods stemming from Ackerman et al.’s seminal paper.

  11. 11.

    This can already be seen using the toy dataset in Table 5. Computations parallel to the ones in the preceding section reveal that predicting the m.sg from the m.pl is harder than the other way around: H(m.sgm.pl)\({}= \frac{3}{4}\log_{2} 3 - \frac{1}{2} \approx0.69\). This is due to the fact that in this dataset, there are more instances where a m.pl has a form that does not fully determine that of its m.sg than the other way around.

  12. 12.

    To see how this works intuitively, consider again the toy dataset in Table 5, and prediction of the m.sg from joint knowledge of the f.sg and m.pl. Predicting the pattern relating m.sg and m.pl (i.e., the value of ‘m.sgm.pl’ on the basis of just the m.pl is hard, because plurals in /o/ may correspond to two kinds of singulars; that is, there is one value of ‘m.plm.sgm.pl’ which corresponds to two possible values of ‘m.sgm.pl’. However, if we add in knowledge of the relationship between m.pl and f.sg, no uncertainty remains: all lexemes with an Xal ∼ Xo alternation between m.sg and m.pl exhibit the same alternation between f.sg and m.pl.

  13. 13.

    If the 4 strategies were strictly equiprobable, the implicative entropy would be higher than 2, the entropy associated with choosing the value of a variable with 4 equiprobable outcomes.

  14. 14.

    The two formations also contrast in being matched with feminine nouns in -euse or -rice respectively.

  15. 15.

    Note that this pattern applies both in regular cases like formationformateur, where the Latinate stem itself is predictable from the verb’s basic stem, and in cases like correctioncorrecteur, where the Latinate stem is unpredictable. This also contributes to making prediction of Agent nouns from Action nouns easy: Agent and Action nouns do not contrast in terms of unpredictable patterns of allomorphy.

  16. 16.

    There are only five exceptions in the dataset, including constateur ‘in charge of reporting’ related to constater ‘take notice’.

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Acknowledgements

Aspects of this work were presented at the Workshop on Paradigms in Word Formation (Naples, September 2016), at the first ParadigMo conference (Toulouse, June 2017), and at Université Paris Diderot. We thank the audiences at these events, and in particular Laurie Bauer, Sacha Beniamine, Gilles Boyé, Nabil Hathout, Fiammetta Namer, Andrew Spencer, and Delphine Tribout, for their comments and suggestions. We also thank Farrell Ackerman and Anna M. Thornton, two anonymous reviewers, and the guest editors for this special issue for useful suggestions. This work was partially supported by a public grant overseen by the French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the “Investissements d’Avenir” program (reference: ANR-10-LABX-0083).

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Bonami, O., Strnadová, J. Paradigm structure and predictability in derivational morphology. Morphology 29, 167–197 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-018-9322-6

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Keywords

  • Inflection
  • Derivation
  • Paradigm
  • Morphological family
  • Predictability