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Schlenker - Ling 1 - Introduction to the Study of Language - UCLA
Introduction to Language - Lecture Notes 8
Form I: Morphology
☞ Goal: So far we have treated words as if they were unanalyzable units. Indeed they may appear to be so from the standpoint of the Syntax. For instance we systematically -and correctly- assumed that a single word is always a constituent, because no syntactic rule could target one part of the word only. However the fact that words are unanalyzable from the standpoint of the Syntax does not mean that they have no structure at all and are simply memorized as wholes. This is very far from the truth. As it turns out, words are created by rules; for this reason there is no 'longest word' in the English language - a new word can always be produced by applying one of these rules to an 'old' word. Furthermore, a word has a tree-like structure, and typically (though not always) has a head, i.e. a component from which it inherits its semantic and syntactic properties (for instance, overeat is a verb just like its head eat; and overeating is a kind of eating). Although morphology is driven by rules, it is also the repository of irregularities, as seen for instance in the English past tense (the past tense of walk is walked, but that of go is went, not *goed). The most basic component of a word, its root, is truly unanalyzable. It is an arbitrary pairing between a sound and a meaning, and it often triggers exceptions to the rules. These exceptions are studied from various angles in the second part of these Lecture Notes, devoted to a case study of the English past tense.
Note: The present notes build on Chapter 5 of Pinker's Language Instinct, which is required reading for the course.
How to Build Words: Morphological Rules
There is no longest word in English a. antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters) b. floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters) c. pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis (45 letters)
What is the longest word of the English language? Some have mentioned the following:
As it turns out, there is no longest word in English. To see this, consider simply the following two series, each of which can be continued without limit to create a potentially infinite number of new words: (2) a. great-grandmother b. great-great-grandmother c. great-great-great-grandmother ... a. sensation b. sensational c. sensationalize d. sensationalization e. sensationalizational f. sensationalizationalize ...
P. consisting of an irreducible. as electr. the expression blackboard is a noun. In each pair. a mechanism illustrated below: (4) V N V N N N A N N baby sit church yard black board Compounding in English normally has the following properties: (i) Compounds have a head.g.UCLA 2 1. as the noun board. which gives them their main semantic and syntactic properties. In Syntax rules created tree-like structures. a black board is simply a board that is black). arbitrary sound-meaning pairing. is not a compound because (a) it has its main stress on the final element. and (b) the meaning of the whole is entirely predictable from the meaning of the parts (e. ♦ Compounding The simplest way to form new words out of old elements is by compounding. By contrast. and the meaning of the whole is not entirely predictable from the meaning of the parts (a blackboard may not be black. the syllable with the main stress is indicated in bold. The same conclusion applies in the case of morphology: speakers of English know a potentially infinite number of words because they have mastered morphological rules. electr-on.e. a. The same holds of most words as well (although some words are headless). electric-al.in: electr-ic. similarly a Verb Phrase is so-called because it must include a verb in a specific place. the expression blackboard refers to things that are kinds of boards. In Syntax constituents typically contained a head. In the following we use the term root to refer to the most basic component of a word or family of related words. and thus that they must be using rules to create new sentences out of old elements). Schlenker . Example: -syntactically.Introduction to the Study of Language . as is its head board -semantically. electr-ify.). electric-ity. The same applies in morphology. . as is the case in many classrooms). i. b. etc. is a compound: the main stress is on the first element. but for instance green. In the following examples.2 Words have Structure When we studied Syntax we took speakers' ability to generate a potentially infinite number of sentences as a sure sign that they know syntactic rules (the argument was that they could not possibly have memorized an infinite number of sentences.Ling 1 . (ii) The head comes last (iii) The stress comes first (iv) The meaning of the whole is not entirely predictable on the basis of the meaning of the parts. a word which gave them their defining properties (a Noun Phrase contains a Noun in a designated syntactic position.
constituents with a head. The first meaning is obtained by making California history a morphological constituent.UCLA 3 (5) (6) a. As was the case in Syntax.Introduction to the Study of Language . or it may be a history teacher from California. and produces a noun.: N N A -ness un- A A -ness happy happy . a darkroom: a room from which daylight is excluded so that photographs can be processed.Ling 1 .e. Schlenker . N N N N N N N N N N California history teacher California history teacher ♦ Derivational Morphology A second way to create new words out of old elements is by adding suffixes or prefixes to existing words to modify their meaning and often their syntactic category.P. Thus a California history teacher may be someone that teaches California history. which gives them their main syntactic and semantic properties). and it also typically yields headed constituents (i. unhappiness is the property of being unhappy. as on the leftmost tree below. It may or may not be black. a dark room: a room that is dark b. etc. a. Thus happiness is the property of being happy. The second meaning is obtained by the morphological tree found on the right. (7) a. This process is called 'derivational morphology'. there are sometimes instances of structural ambiguity in morphology. a black board: b. In the following example the suffix -ness is specified as taking as its sister an adjective. California history teacher b. a blackboard: a board that is black a board for writing on with chalk in front of a class.
and as a result: (i) the expression overeat is a verb.men c. it transmits to the entire word the information that its past tense is irregular.dogs. This explains why the past tense of overeat is overate: the head is eat. Thus it is reasonable to assume that walkman and lowlife have no head at all. we predict -correctly again. This is the case of walkman. certain complex nouns do not have any head. not overeated. Often irregularities may be triggered by a given root. eat . man . Since low is an adjective. walk-ing. The new word has the same syntactic category and the same meaning as the old one. and (iii) the past tense of overeat is overate. not *lowlives. This is the correct result. which suggests that life is not its head. . etc. True.Introduction to the Study of Language . go .sang d. dog.went c. Similarly the plural of lowlife should according to this theory be lowlifes. and should thus be overate. Examples: walk. (ii) a workman is a kind of man. Thus although the regular way of forming the past tense of a verb is by adding -ed to it. (ii) overeating is a kind of eating.e. walk-s. it also can't be the case that low is the head of the construction. not workmans).3 Headless Nouns Interestingly.that the plural of workman should be workmen. just like man. come .ate b. men rather than *mans. not a noun. 1. As a result: (i) workman is a noun. i. But the following are exceptions to this rule: (9) a. it is small electronic device that plays CDs). as in dog . and that (ii) a complex word inherits its main properties from its head. And by the same token life takes as its plural lives. This makes a surprising prediction. not overeated. Similarly a lowlife is not a kind of life.Ling 1 .e.UCLA 4 ♦ Inflectional Morphology We note for completeness that inflectional morphology is the process by which suffixes or prefixes are added to a word to fit its role in the sentence. cat-s. walkmans. Overeat has eat as its head. ox . But since man is not the head of walkman.fish b.P. just like the expression eat. a word which is headed inherits its main semantic and syntactic properties from its head. man takes an irregular plural. as in walk-walked. Schlenker . Again this is the right result. and since lowlife is a noun. by contrast. cat. Notice. not *lifes. that since man is the head of workman. Remember that (i) irregularities are triggered by roots. fish .came Similarly the plural is normally formed by adding -s to a noun.oxen As was observed earlier. sing . and thus the plural of walkman has no choice but to be regular. and (iii) the plural of workman is workmen. But now consider walkman and lowlife. since a walkman is certainly not a kind of man. dog-s. Similarly workman is headed and has as its head man. certain roots do not conform to this pattern: (8) a. walk-ed. and certainly not a kind of walk either (rather. this information cannot be transmitted to the entire word. i.
to be corrected by their parents.Introduction to the Study of Language . You will thus have applied the rule of plural formation to a word you had never heard before. i. An alternative hypothesis is that Universal Grammar has a principle. went or found are possible past tense forms? This by itself is not particularly challenging. Once upon a time a alligator was eating a dinosaur and the dinosaur was eating the alligator and the dinosaur was eaten by the alligator and the alligator goed kerplunk. is the second part of the question: how do children ever learn that holed. i. i. 2. This is because before they learn the rule they memorize plurals as unananalyzable units. Schlenker . The fact that they nonetheless created these words indicates that they learned -and overapplied. It is very unlikely that the children who uttered these sentences had ever heard anyone say 'holded'. At a certain stage of their development children do this too. As far as is currently known this is not the case . This can be shown experimentally (they then pass the wug test. however.e.1 Rules and Exceptions Productivity of Rules Even without an argument based on speakers' potential knowledge of an infinity of new words (as in (2) and (3)above). it is easy to show that adults apply morphological rules productively. because the child's performance starts out very high. 2nd edition. such as 'hold'. they apply a morphological rule to words they have never heard before). 'Why the Child Holded the Baby Rabbits' (An Invitation to Cognitive Science. . The following are from Pinker. By contrast. since these are words they hear uttered around them. The phenomenon in (10) is called overgeneralization.. (ii) More challenging. and are thus in no danger of overapplying a rule.e. 'find' or 'go'. how do they ever recover from the mistakes they make in sentences such as (10)? Concerning (ii). you will have no difficulty in telling me that these are two wugs. I love cut-upped egg. which forbids a rule from applying to a word if the word already has a corresponding irregular form.2 Exceptions and the Blocking Principle But how do children ever learn that there are exceptions to the rules? The problem has in fact two sides: (i) How do children learn that held. goed or finded are not possible forms? Or to put it differently. But production data (i. d.e. It has a paradoxical consequence: when children have not yet learned the morphological rule. MIT Press. data obtained simply from listening to what children say) make the same point. My teacher holded the baby rabbits and we patted them. to words that they have never heard before. finded and goed are ungrammatical. If I introduce to you a new object that I call a wug and then go on to show you two objects of the same sort. when they learn the rule they tend to apply it incorrectly to cases that require an exceptional treatment.children recover from overgeneralizations even in the absence of any corrections. and then dips down before rising again. I finded Renée c..e. their performance on the forms they utter tends to be better than the one they attain immediately after they have learned the rule. 'finded' or 'goed'.P. Volume 1.a rule. one hypothesis would be that children need to have access to negative evidence. Only later do they learn that holded. called the Blocking Principle. b.UCLA 5 2 2. p. which they have not mastered yet. This entire sequence is called by psychologists 'U-shaped development".Ling 1 . 109) (10) a.
the overgeneralized.. But in fact there is a period in which children use both forms. and are not reliably corrected by parents. rule-created forms. the children may recover from their overgeneralizations without having access to any negative evidence.UCLA 6 Blocking Principle: A rule may not apply to a word if the word already has a corresponding irregular form. and simultaneously with. Some of the time.. whereby a rule is prevented from applying if there is a grammatically equivalent irregular . Volume 1. People do not remember an arbitrary pairing (like a name with a face. however. 2nd edition. the Blocking Principle will immediately entail that the normal rule of past tense formation could not apply to go to form go-ed (since the Blocking Principle specifies that a rule -here past tense formation. So children have experienced everything in life fewer times than an adult has. The present theory predicts that at any point in time children should either use only goed. not quickly enough to get it out in that sentence). Now children. including hearing the past tense forms of irregular verbs. Prior to that age. A possible hypothesis is that the Blocking Principle applies only to the extent that the irregular form can be successfully retrieved from the speaker's memory. Since there are an infinite number of ways to do this but only one is correct. by definition.Ling 1 . they use the memorized irregular forms both prior to. (ii) We can catch children in the act of generalizing when they use one of the general rules of English to create a form that they could not have heard from their parents. have not lived as long as adults. held will not pop into mind (or at least. The details of the acquisition of past tense morphology are somewhat more subtle. or a treaty with a date) perfectly on a single exposure. known for over a hundred years. when they are trying to express the concept of holding in the past." The course of acquisition of past tense by children can be summarized as follows (Pinker. given that the incorrect forms are expressive and useful. but not both (since went will block goed as soon as went is learned).may not apply to a word if the word in question already has a corresponding irregular form . pp. If the Blocking Principle is indeed part of Universal Grammar.Introduction to the Study of Language . as in holded (. they will apply it to hold. This additional assumption is stated by Pinker as follows ('Why the Child Holded the Baby Rabbits'. An Invitation to Cognitive Science. It often takes repeated encounters. and retrieval less reliable. 'Why the Child Holded the Baby Rabbits'): I. so as to satisfy the constraint that tense must be maked in all sentences. (iii) The puzzle can be solved if children command one of the basic design features of language: the "Blocking" principle. If children have heard held less often. creating holded. Children must be generalizing such a rule when they apply it to irregular verbs. 113-114): "The extra needed assumption comes from an uncontroversial principle of the psychology of memory. MIT Press.in this case went). For as soon as a child has learned that went is a possible past tense for go. If they are at an age at which they have already acquired the regular past tense rule. (ii) Children's simultaneous use of correct and incorrect forms poses the puzzle of how they unlearn the incorrect forms. Schlenker . like held. when they failed to retrieve held. their memory trace for it will be weaker. with the probability of successful retrieval increasing with each encounter (presumably reflecting an increase in the 'strength' or clarity of the trace of the pairing as it is stored in memory). (i) Children command not just rules but memorized words. children have to generalize from a finite sample of parental speech to the infinite set of sentences that define the language as a whole. (i) "When learning a language.) II. children must be innately guided to the correct solution by having some kinds of principles governing the design of human language built in. they had no choice but to say hold.P. or only went.
These.P. however. Their use of the vocabulary is often slightly off-target . children just memorize words (held). Williams patients tend to overapply rules.Ling 1 . Schlenker . Interestingly. Williams patients appear to have difficulties with the exceptions. regular complex forms are built 'on the fly' by speakers.UCLA 7 form in the memorized mental dictionary.3 Cases of Dissociations It is plausible that irregular forms are stored as units in memory. they remember it better and better. they can apply the rule. Now equipped with the rule. and make the errors less and less often" 2. . words. The course of language development in this area can be explained straightforwardly. Early on. as an interaction between the innate organization of language (rules. There are some subtleties. saying catched and sleeped for caught and slept. As long as they can remember an irregular. have almost entirely normal linguistic abilities. and the Blocking principle that relates them) and the child's experience with parental speech. whenever they fail to retrieve an irregular past form from memory. and as a result SLI children have a very poor performance with the wug test. The opposite situation is found in Williams patients. [Experiments discussed in class are not reported here].for instance Selective Language Impairment (SLI) patients have difficulty applying rules. they can stop producing the overregularized version. As they hear the irregular more and more often.Introduction to the Study of Language . it will be recalled. III. Where SLI patients have trouble learning the rules. Later they formulate the regular past tense rule "add -ed" from memorized regular pairs like walk-walked. resulting in an overregularization error. Several cases of dissociations have been investigated . If this hypothesis is correct one could expect regular and irregular forms to be computed in very different ways by the brain.they may for instance say evacuate the glass for empty the glass. block the rule more and more reliably. By contrast. though not perfectly.
Putting together stems and inflections (124) 2 Forming new stems -Compounding (126) -Derivations (127) -Heads in morphology(128) 3. word as rote-memorized chunk) (141) Acquisition of the lexicon (143) -Arbitrariness of the sign -Induction . Schlenker . Roots and root affixes (128) III.Introduction to the Study of Language . The Creativity of Morphology (120) -Inflections (120) -Derivations (122) -Compounding (122) II.Ling 1 . The Lexicon (141) What is a word? (word as syntactic atom vs. Words (=Morphology) I. Contents of Chapter 5 of Pinker's Language Instinct Chapter 5. Words. How Morphology Works: Rules (124) Morphological Trees (124) 1.UCLA 8 Appendix. How Morphology Works: Irregularity (129) Why headless nouns are regular Why you can say mice-infested but not rats-infested IV. Words.P.
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