[PLing] What is in a morpheme?

Stela Manova stela.manova at univie.ac.at
Sat Mar 14 15:48:07 CET 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

I am pleased to announce the publication of a thematic issue of the journal Word Structure titled What is in a morpheme?: https://www.euppublishing.com/toc/word/13/1 <https://www.euppublishing.com/toc/word/13/1>. The issue is a joint effort of editors educated in linguistics and computer science and affiliated with five universities: Berlin & Edinburgh, New York, Uppsala and Vienna. Keywords: morpheme, morphosyntax, experimental linguistics, computational morphology, Distributed Morphology, Paradigm Function Morphology. You can access the journal for free through the website of the University Library. 

From the editors' introduction: What is in a morpheme? Theoretical, experimental and computational approaches to the relation of meaning and form in morphology
There are three possible ways to approach the relation of meaning and form. These general scenarios are equally applicable to a formal view of language and to a processing-based view of what a language user does when seeing, hearing or reading a stimulus. 
	A. The association between form and meaning is stipulated nondirectionally. Notations such as -s <PLURAL> stand for this type of form-meaning relation; morphemes in Minimalist Morphology (Wunderlich 1996, Stiebels 2011) relate meaning and form this way. In processing, the relation of meaning and form could be claimed to follow scenario A if one could demonstrate that the retrieval of a word’s form and that of its meaning are simultaneous.
	B. The association is from meaning to form. One first accesses the concept <PLURAL> and only afterwards a form that can express it; psycho- and neurolinguistic experiments with pictures as stimuli are of this type.
	C. The association is from form to meaning. One sees -s and then tries to associate it with some meaning; visual form recognition tasks in experimental linguistics are of this type.The most important difference between these scenarios consists in the fact that in scenarios B and C meaning may be assigned at the level of the word, i.e. one may claim that morphemes do not have meanings of their own or even that there are no morphemes at all (as in scenario B).
	 Most morphological theories have architectures that conform either to scenario A or to scenario B (or a combination of both); by contrast, many experimental studies of morphological processing and unsupervised computational approaches to morphology focus on issues of word recognition and parsing, both of which fall in the domain of scenario C.
	   We highlight the importance of positional systems - syntagmatic systems in which the meaning of a basic set of individual elements (similar to morphemes in a language) is understood not only in isolation but also based on their position with respect to other elements - and ask whether language counts as such a system. For example, to understand a numeral written in the decimal system, one must know the relative position of the atomic parts (0–9). This is because the value of the symbol depends on its position; the decimal system is thus positional with respect to the meaning of the element. Therefore, the numeral 123 denotes a different number than 132, 213, 231, 312 and 321. The meaning of 123 is not 1+2+3 but 100+20+3: we need to know that the “1” is multiplied by 100, the “2” by 10 and the “3” by 1. No overt symbols represent this part of the value; instead, this manipulation depends solely on the position of the digit within the numeral. Some analogies with language might be our understanding of iconicity and semantic compositionality. 
	Much evidence from morphology and syntax can be adduced in support of the conclusion that language is a positional system. Such evidence includes: 1. The differentiation between roots vs affixes is positional; 2. Stratal affixes: Level 1 and Level 2 affixes are defined positionally; 3. Templatic morphology is entirely positionally defined (Stump 1997, 2001); 4. Layered morphology (and its relation to semantic scope, e.g. Rice 2000) is positionally defined; 5. Position classes in morphology (Inkelas 1993); 6. There are positional restrictions on the placement of an affix in a word (affix ordering constraints, see Manova & Aronoff 2010, Manova 2015); 7. Selection for specific affixes, whether as subcategorization frames (Lieber 1992), mobile affixes (Kim 2015) or sublexicons (Gouskova et al 2015); 8. Movement in syntax; 9. Word order in syntax. 
	Phonology also deals with positional systems, of course, although there is no meaning represented as such.

Acknowledgements: The editors, Harald Hammarström, Itamar Kastner, Yining Nie and Stela Manova, would like to thank the participants in their SLE 2017 workshop at the University of Zurich, as well as Keren Rice and Jonathan Bobaljik for their support. Thanks also to the reviewers for the special issue, including Edith Aldridge, Mark Aronoff, Olga Borik, Diane Brentari, Elena Koulidobrova, Franc Marušič, Fabio Montermini, Léa Nash and Maria Voeikova. The editors would also like to thank Greg Stump for his support and guidance during the editorial process and for the very careful reading of the introduction. Itamar Kastner was supported by DFG grant AL 554/8–1 (Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Preis 2014 to Artemis Alexiadou) while at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
	On a personal note, I am grateful to Artemis Alexiadou and Alec Marantz who allowed their lab members to work on this project under my advice. They supported my career during a very complicated period of my life. Thanks also to all generative linguists, including those closely related to Noam Chomsky and Manfred Krifka, who wrote to apologize for Daniel Büring's  behavior and to encourage me to continue doing linguistics. Thanks for the interest in my research and for making the preprint of the thematic issue a top download on LingBuzz. (I completed my PhD at the University of Vienna with distinction but under the supervision of Büring’s predecessor, the non-generative linguist W. U. Dressler. My second PhD and then postdoc supervisor, H. Miklas, was, as a proud Slavicist, neither generative nor non-generative but ignorant about linguistics. Likewise for the West Slavic linguist S. Newerkla who recommended me for a senior postdoc position (E. Richter Fellowship) in Slavic and General Linguistics: Newerkla was among Dressler’s flatterers, when Dressler was in office, but changed the camp with Büring’s coming to Vienna. He obviously believed that his linguistics is the same as Büring’s. Since this is not the case, Newerkla, together with Miklas and the professors of Russian, started claiming that Slavic Linguistics is not related to General Linguistics, i.e. during Dressler’s tenure Slavic Linguistics was related to General Linguistics but during Büring’s tenure it is not. You could imagine the consequences for a former Dressler’s student specializing in Slavic and General Linguistics in Vienna.)

Btw, it is Albert Einstein’s birthday today. If you are reading this line, you have read my message: Even a theoretical war is a war. Make science, not war!

Best regards,
Stela Manova

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