Schema Unification and Morphological Productivity: A Diachronic Perspective

  • Luise Kempf
  • Stefan Hartmann
Part of the Studies in Morphology book series (SUMO, volume 4)


Unified schemas which allow for deriving multiply complex word-formation products are a central concept in Construction Morphology (CxM). Based on examples such as un-V-able formations in English, it has been argued in the framework of Construction Morphology that unified schemas (in this case: [un[V-able]A]A) can be conceived of as short cuts in coining new complex words. In this paper, we explore three prospective cases of schema unification and discuss what kind of evidence supports the assumption of unified schemas. The first two case studies are diachronic in nature. Drawing on corpus analyses of data from the Early New High German period (1350–1650) and from the early stages of New High German, we show how the developments of the complex patterns diverge from the developments of their counterparts. To this end, we analyze the frequency and productivity of the (sub-)constructions and assess the semantics of the word-formation products. Firstly, nominalization with the suffix -ung has been shown to undergo a diachronic decrease in morphological productivity. However, unified schemas such as [Be-X-ung]N or [(PREF)-X-ierung]N are shown to be still productive, e.g. Beplankung, Belaberung, Vercomedianisierung (from, a collection of neologisms). In a similar vein, complex derivation of the type [un-V-lich]ADJ ‘un-V-able’ is shown to have remained productive for a longer period of time than its simplex parent schema [V-lich]ADJ. Moreover, many un-V-lich derivatives historically precede their unprefixed counterparts, or lack them altogether (unwiderstehlich ‘irresistible’, but *widerstehlich). Our third case study explores present day German pseudo-participles (bebrillt ‘bespectacled’) using web data. The complex pattern can be shown to diverge stylistically from its parent schemas and also to provide semantically more uniform derivatives. Overall, our results show that the concept of unified schemas can help explain important differences in the development of the individual subpatterns in terms of morphological productivity and in terms of semantic aspects of the word-formation constructions.


Complex schema Constructionalization Parasynthetic formation Productivity Pseudo-participles Schema unification 



We are grateful to Geert Booij and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on a previous version of this paper. Any remaining errors and shortcomings are of course ours.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deutsches InstitutJohannes Gutenberg-UniversitätMainzGermany
  2. 2.Lehrstuhl für deutsche SprachwissenschaftOtto-Friedrich-Universität BambergBambergGermany

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