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Morphological autonomy and diachrony

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Part of the Yearbook of Morphology book series (YOMO)

8. Conclusion

The primary aim of this study has been simply to show that autonomously morphological structure need not be an inert, defunct, residue of an earlier état de langue, nor a kind of diachronic ‘dead end’.35 It can be a dynamic, pervasive, self-reinforcing factor in morphological change. If morphology, and in particular autonomous morphology, is a ‘disease’ of language, it must be an extremely benign one. Indeed, so innocuous is it that speakers can actually pass up golden opportunities to align allomorphs with morphosyntactic properties (cf. the generalization of the preterite 1sg. PYTA alternant, described in 3.3), in favour of the ‘morphomic’ distribution. I have also sought — albeit speculatively — to suggest that the autonomously morphological may permeate phenomena which, prima facie, seem to be motivated by universal principles of iconic alignment between form and meaning. I proposed that complete levelling out of allomorphy — a common cross-linguistic phenomenon — could just as easily be formulated in ‘morphomic’ as in extramorphological terms, and that there was some evidence from Romance to suggest that such a perspective could not be excluded a priori. I have further argued that an autonomously morphological signatum, namely the very fact of being a formative, may be present even in simple, linear, concatenations of formatives, and therefore potentially present not only in any language, but indeed even in formatives which might have a lexical meaning. But the least claim I want to make is that morphologists, and especially historical morphologists, should not regard the autonomously morphological as a stagnant backwater of linguistic structure.

Keywords

  • Romance Language
  • Stressed Syllable
  • Past Participle
  • Lexical Meaning
  • Front Vowel

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Part of the research for this paper benefited from an Arts and Humanities Research Board Research Leave Scheme grant in 2002–2003. I am also grateful to the editors of the Yearbook, Nigel Vincent, and two anonymous referees, for their very helpful input.

For an example of a productive, but not extramorphologically motivated, pattern of allomorphy in a non-Romance volume, see the comments on the Cushitic language Dhaasanac, see the article by Matthew Baerman, in this volume.

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Maiden, M. (2005). Morphological autonomy and diachrony. In: Booij, G., van Marle, J. (eds) Yearbook of Morphology 2004. Yearbook of Morphology. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-2900-4_6

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