Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Inflectional morphology in optimality theory
by Xu, Zheng, Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2007, 135; 3328052
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation proposes an inferential-realizational model of inflectional morphology (Matthews 1972, Zwicky 1985, Anderson 1992, Aronoff 1994, Stump 2001) within the framework of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993). Following Russell 1995, Yip 1998, Hyman 2003, MacBride 2004, I assume that the phonological information of inflectional affixes is introduced through realization constraints (RC) which associate abstract morphosyntactic or semantic feature values with phonological forms. I propose that rankings of realization constraints conform to the specificity condition, i.e. a constraint realizing a more specific morphosyntactic feature value set outranks a less specific realization constraint. I also propose that the unmarked situation in which one feature value is realized by one form (Wurzel 1989) is encoded in two universal and violable markedness constraints, *FEATURE S PLIT which bans the realization of a feature value by more than one form and *FEATURE FUSION which bans a form realizing more than one feature value.

Based on this model, I examine language phenomena such as OCP-triggered selection of phonologically unrelated (allo)morphs in Greek, Hungarian, Tswana, and Spanish, ordering of inflectional affixes in Lezgian, blocking of inflectional affixes and extended morphological exponence in languages like Tamazight Berber, and directional syncretism in languages like Latin.

I show that this model has advantages over other morphological models in several ways. (1) It readily captures cases in which a default marker emerges to replace a morphosyntactically more specific marker which is expected to be adjacent to a phonologically similar form (OCP >> RCspecific >> RCless specific). By contrast, the relation between a more specific marker and a less specific one needs to be stipulated in the input in a model which introduces phonological information through inputs (e.g. Bonet 2004). (2) It readily captures universal generalizations on affix order (Greenberg 1963, Bybee 1985), e.g. a number exponent cannot be farther away from a nominal stem than a case exponent because case scopes over number. Such generalizations are missed in Paradigm Function Morphology (Stump 2001) without extraordinary machinery. (3) Based on rankings of *FEATURE S PLIT and constraints realizing the same morphosyntactic feature value(s), it provides a unified account of both blocking and extended exponence without recourse to either a distinction between primary and secondary exponents (Noyer 1992) or multiple rule blocks (Stump 2001). (4) Based on output-to-output correspondence constraints (Benua 1995, McCarthy and Prince 1995), it readily captures cases of divergent bidirectional syncretism (Baerman 2004) in which syncretism brings about both marked and unmarked forms, a problem for Noyer 1998, which claims that syncretism always moves from a more marked to a less marked state.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Aronoff, Mark
Commitee:
School: State University of New York at Stony Brook
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 69/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: Affix order, Blocking, Inflection, Morphology, Optimality, Optimality theory, Syncretism
Publication Number: 3328052
ISBN: 978-0-549-80771-1
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