In 1994, the morphologist Mark Aronoff introduced us to the concept of the morphome, which might be defined as follows:
morphome (n.) a unit of linguistic representation known only to the morphologist
The introduction of this theoretical construct by Aronoff can (and should) be seen as a challenge to the rest of our discipline. The explanatory power and necessity of the morphome to the linguistic subfield of morphology can no longer be questioned,1 so as researchers, we are left with a series of interesting questions: What is the theoretical equivalent of the morphome in syntax? Semantics? Phonetics? Pragmatics? In short, how can we define the new, and, as yet, poorly understood subfield of linguistics known as linguomogy?
The role that the phonome plays in phonetics and phonology seems obvious enough. Consider the case of near mergers.2 It has been claimed that in Russian, for example, word-
Lexeme Cyrillic Phonemic Phonetic time, occasion раз /raz/ [ras] races (gen.pl.) рас /ras/ [ras]
That is, voiced phonemes devoice in word-
Some phoneticians have argued that examples such as this one provide evidence of the existence of near mergers, rather than complete mergers. In a near merger, two words remain distinct, but the distinction is undetectable by native speakers. In fact, the distinction can only be detected by trained phoneticians who subscribe to the idea of a near merger.
Thus, we now know the true difference between words like раз and рас above. Indeed, the distinction is phonomic. The word раз does not end with the phoneme /z/, but ends with the phonome /z/ (written, conventionally, as /ſ/). And, of course, the same distinction holds for the rest of the voiced consonants of Russian, and for other cases involving so-called near mergers generally.
The syntome has enjoyed regular use in generative syntax from the very beginning. Indeed, syntax itself might be better characterized as the study of linguistic units known only to the syntactician.
More specifically, though, the syntome is an unnamed element that must exist for syntactic reasons. There have been any number of syntomes utilized by syntacticians over the years (AGR nodes; Q features that need checking; the EPP, etc.). The course of their evolution can be characterized as follows:
The cycle detailed above would, of course, be replicated over and over again with or without the term “syntome”, but now that we have it, perhaps we can better understand and explain this peculiar behavior engaged in by syntacticians the world over.
The lexome (synonymous, in many contexts, with the term “word”) is the glue that holds the field of linguistics together. Its definition is known only to those who work within the subdisciplines of semantics and pragmatics, and they have long been sworn to secrecy. Any number of uninitiated linguists have hazarded guesses as to the meaning of the word “lexome”. Some examples are listed below:
Such definitions are further complicated by the existence of sign languages.
The truth of the matter is that no one, save a select few, knows what the meaning of “lexome” is
Now that we better understand how the theoretical concept of a morphome applies to other subdisciplines in linguistics, it is our hope to see research in the budding fields of phonomics, syntomics and lexomics (the latter of which, of course, shall be forever hidden to us, lest we wish to put ourselves out of work permanently). In fifty years’ time, we expect that our understanding of linguomogy shall have increased tenfold, expanding at a rate of approximately 0.2 linguomes per year.
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|Cathartic Grecian Maxomes
|SpecGram Vol CLX, No 1 Contents|