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  • Inflectional morphology: A theory of paradigm structure by Gregory T. Stump
  • Edward J. Vajda
Inflectional morphology: A theory of paradigm structure. By Gregory T. Stump. (Cambridge studies in linguistics 93.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. xvi, 308. $65.00.

Although the presence or absence of inflection in a language has been a cornerstone of typology since before Wilhelm von Humboldt, a consensus regarding inflectional morphology as a distinct component of linguistic structure has yet to emerge. This book is an attempt to formalize what can be deduced about inflectional paradigms based on a rigorous inspection of the data. Gregory Stump calls his approach paradigm function morphology (PFM), describing it as an ‘inferential-realizational’ theory that regards ‘the paradigm and not merely the word’ (28) as the primary focus of analysis with respect to inflectional morphology. The book develops the idea that paradigms are not epiphenomena of the morphosyntax but rather ‘constitute a central principle of morphological organization’ (32).

The most crucial arguments are presented in Ch. 1 (1–30), which demonstrates the superiority of inferential over lexical theories of inflection and realizational over incremental theories. Also discussed are three properties of inflection—preference for affixal inflection, recurring crosslinguistic patterns of inflectional affix ordering, and the tendency for affixes of the same position class to be featurally coherent—that cannot be explained as arising from PFM, yet in no way contradict the theory either. Competing proposals such as the concrete functional head hypothesis (Margaret Speas, Phrase structure in natural language, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990) are contradicted by these empirical facts in significant ways. S cites Joan Bybee (Morphology: A study of the relation between meaning and form, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1985) to explain the first two properties as artifacts of diachronic word formation processes; the third he explains by elaborating upon Paninian morphological principles.

Each of the remaining chapters develops a particular facet of PFM and explores the contrast with other theories. Ch. 2 (31–61) uses the Bulgarian verb to illustrate the notion of paradigm functions, arguing in contrast to Stephen R. Anderson (A-morphous morphology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) that realization rules belonging to the same rule block are resolved by Panini’s principle and need not be intrinsically ordered. Ch. 3 (62–95) delves further into the issue of rule competition, using the Potawatomi verb as illustrative material. Ch. 4 (96–137), entitled ‘Headedness’, explores inflection in light of certain nonconcatenative aspects of morphology. Ch. 5 (138–68) rejects the template metaphor, arguing that all inflectional morphology crosslinguistically can be accounted for using paradigm functions without recourse to an unmotivated templatic prosthesis. Ch. 6 (169–211) discusses stem alternations, and Ch. 7 (212–41) explores the issue of syncretism. Finally, Ch. 8 (242–76) contrasts PFM with network morphology, probably the most similar alternative proposal for dealing with inflectional paradigms.

The book’s strong points are undoubtedly the author’s methodical evaluation of competing theoretical interpretations of the data and the rigor with which he investigates the implications of his own conclusions. Some (including the present reviewer) may be inclined to regard this approach as overly formalistic, a possibility S himself concedes (29–30); but the basis for this criticism is largely nullified by the author’s impeccably clear justification of his own methodological choices. Readers disinclined toward detailed formalisms at the expense of typologically rich linguistic descriptions will likewise welcome the extensive inclusion of data from genetically diverse languages.

My one substantive disappointment with the book is that it avoids defining the notion of lexical stem with the same rigor applied elsewhere in the discussion. In particular, I had hoped to see greater elaboration [End Page 224] of S’s brilliant demonstration (Gregory Stump, ‘Templatic morphology and inflectional morphology’, Yearbook of morphology 1996, ed. by Geert Booij and Jaap van Marle, 217–41, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1997) that some forms of derivation, as well as all forms of inflection, are ‘templatic’ in the ways first defined by Jane Simpson and Meg Withgott (‘Pronominal clitic clusters and templates’, Syntax and semantics 19: The syntax of pronominal clitics, ed. by Hagit Borer, 149–74, Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1986). The interface between lexeme and inflection for ‘templatic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 224-225
Launched on MUSE
2003-05-01
Open Access
No
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