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  • Morphological analysis in comparison ed. by Wolfgang U. Dressler, et al.
  • Mike Maxwell
Morphological analysis in comparison. Ed. By Wolfgang U. Dressler, Oskar E. Pfeiffer, Markus Pöchtrager, and John R. Rennison. (Current issues in linguistic theory 201.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2000. Pp. ix, 253. ISBN 1556199791. $72(Hb).

The papers here were presented at the Seventh International Morphology Meeting in Vienna in 1996. The editors briefly summarize the articles, which consist of analyses of various morphological phenomena in various languages from various theoretical viewpoints (hence the phrase ‘in comparison’ in the title).

Pablo Albizu and Luis Eguren propose an optimality theoretic analysis of ‘ergative displacement’ in Basque, in which first and second person ergative agreement is marked with absolutive markers (reminiscent of 1/2 person object marking on Potawatomi verbs).

Henry Davis asks whether causatives or inchoatives serve as lexical semantic representations (LSRs). Rejecting ‘on conceptual grounds’ the possibility that both might be available, Davis argues from language data (particularly St’át’imcets, a Salish language) that inchoative LSRs are universal—but not universally lexicalized, for pragmatic reasons and for uniformity within a language.

Lluïsa Gràcia co-authors two articles: with Miren Azkarate on Basque, and with Olga Fullana on Catalan. The assumption in both is that head-complement order must be identical in syntax and morphology. Basque is a head-final language; thus any prefixes should be analyzable as modifiers, not heads. In general this is true, but in a few cases [End Page 797] the authors resort to a zero suffix (not just a zero affix). Similarly, Catalan is a VO language, but there are constructions in which what appears to be a possessed object is incorporated to the left of the verb. Resolution involves the assumption that the incorporated noun does not act as the head of the verbal complement but rather as a modifier of its possessor. But this leaves the possessor with two theta roles, an apparent Theta Criterion violation. The solution to this problem requires ‘blending’ lexical conceptual structures—perhaps gutting the Theta Criterion.

Marianne Kilani-Schoch and Wolfgang U. Dressler study the substitution by children of prosodic ‘fillers’ (often an unstressed vowel) for function morphemes. They argue that fillers start out as purely phonological categories, with children gradually assigning them grammatical function.

Mária Ladányi catches grammaticalization in process in Hungarian, where case-marked nouns are becoming verbal prefixes (or perhaps clitics).

Morphological theories disagree as to whether affixes are Saussurean signs, and in particular whether they have significant semantics. Adrienne Lehrer takes the position that there is no sharp boundary between the semantics of affixes and that of lexical morphemes, basing her argument on English derivational affixes.

Joyce McDonough disputes the need for position classes in Athabaskan morphology, claiming that Navajo verbal morphology is binary branching. A longer presentation would have helped motivate the particular lower level constituents.

Vladimir A. Plungian investigates whether a particular affix in the Dogon language (of Mali) is inflectional or derivational; some of his criteria seem debatable. For example, optionality is taken to show that the affix cannot be inflectional. However, at least some inflectional affixes (the plural suffix in Tzeltal, for example) are optional.

Andrew Spencer looks at Chukotkan verb morphology, in particular the obligatory use of inverse forms for certain person combinations. These inverse forms are homophonous with antipassives, which Spencer takes to be a syncretism, supporting the need for rules of referral. However, it seems possible that the grammar simply disallows the missing noninverse forms, leaving the antipassives as the only way to express the particular person combinations.

Edwin Williams takes a bird’s-eye view of the relationship among the lexicon, morphology, and syntax, suggesting that minimalism is on the wrong track in seeking to explain morphology by reference to functional categories. Williams instead proposes something like a principles-and-parameters approach.

While the price is rather hefty for a conference proceedings, all the articles can be read (and for a reasonable price, downloaded or printed) at...


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