Aronoff’s (1994) introduction of the term morphome was a marked advance in the field of morphology. In the 60s, generative phonology had managed to purge biuniqueness from polite discussion1 but morphophonology, left free to wander where it willed, then got up to far more than it should. The hoary morpheme had long been cohabiting with bits of semantics; one almost didn’t dare let one’s grammar interface with it, for fear it would suffer a rash of lexicalism, or explode into a frenzy of uncontrolled downward feature percolation. The morpheme was, to put it politely, behaving in a very distributed way.
The morphome, by contrast, was, and is, much more safely constrained; when it mediates anything at all, it is simply morphophonology on the one hand and morphosyntax on the other. It lets you play matchmaker for nice, well-
Nevertheless, the modern morphologist still faces a problem, which is that at first glance there are not so many morphomes wandering the landscape as one might like. We would like to take this opportunity to argue that they are, in fact, quite numerous; one merely needs to know how to look. There are two key points to keep in mind. First, in reference to morphosyntax, one needs to be able to argue that two (or more) categories manifest via one postulated form, without that form being taken as a sign of either one separately
Both of these conditions can be met quite easily, as long as one keeps in mind that linguistic categories are friendly things; there is an inexhaustible supply of them, and they are always on the verge of always having been there waiting for the analyst to discover them by putting them in a model. They are a conceptual equivalent of what, in biological terms, would result from a cross between the schmoo and the tribble.2
We are now ready to find our morphomes.
You, dear reader, may be objecting at this point, saying that these are obviously semantic categories. The senses have different statistical relations to other words, but we distinguish foam1, representing the lattetude, from foam2, representing the squeevle, only by context, and these labels are based on the terms’ meanings. A grammar that tries to take wider context into account wouldn’t be context-
View “XP” as a general term standing for “XPy”, where y can be an arbitrarily large number. Rules making reference to XP are generalizations;
Posit that the elements we have been viewing as “heads” are, in fact, a different category entirely
These two moves will suffice to turn semantics into morphosyntax quite handily. A lattetude element, foam1, happens to function as a finagle of only one kind of head, whereas a squeevle element, foam2, is a finagle of a different one; the difference in “meaning” is actually a difference solely in grammatical category. They are related only in the same way as the future and the perfect in Latin
Allow underlying phonemes that are never realized.
Since one cannot, after all, view a base as actually rich if all of its elements have to work, this should be uncontroversial. Given an array of apparently-
This simple set of procedures allow the enterprising morphome-
2 Schmoos, being schmoos, will manage to cross with anything if you want them too, so this is not as far-
3 The right sort of constraints are timeless, fortunately, and therefore not subject to the depredations of psycholinguists quite as much as are rules, the discussion of which tends to lead students toward thinking about processing.
4 You might be objecting at this point, saying that these steps fly directly in opposition to what Chomsky (1970) argued. Perhaps you think that in our efforts to avoid lexicalism, we have waxed overly dogmatic. To that, we will reply that (a) Chomksy himself said that those were just “remarks”
5 Most elements such as the & and the % (and there are millions of them) are null in all extant human languages, primarily because they all have one or more features that are not realizable using current anatomy; the “You have to have the articulator” constraint, and the “Don’t choke yourself to death” constraint, universally outrank the “Say all the parts” constraint. The #4512 family of elements, of course, is a special case, violating temporal rather than anatomical limits (it involves sounds being produced simultaneously at various points outside the light cone of the speaker) and thus potentially standing as evidence of a universal universal constraint.
|A Response to Anonymous’s Collected Graphic Evidence Against the Existence of the Morphome
|SpecGram Vol CLX, No 1 Contents|