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Conference Information

Full Title: Paradigm Leveling

Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA
Start Date: 03-Aug-2017 - 03-Aug-2017
Contact: Canaan Breiss
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: Paradigm leveling (also known as intraparadigmatic analogy), typically defined as the reduction or removal of allomorphic alternation in an inflectional paradigm (e.g., Zadok and Bat-el 2015), is one of the most prominent forms of morphological change, as witnessed by the pervasive role that it has played in the history of the Indo-European languages, for instance (Wheeler 1887, Paul 1920, Kuryłowicz 1945–1949, Schindler 1974, Strunk 1991, Fertig 2013). This phenomenon raises fundamental questions about the organization of the lexicon, the actuation of linguistic change, and the nature of the language faculty itself. So it is no surprise that it continues to engender debate (Wetzels 1984, Prasada and Pinker 1993, Slioussar and Kholodilova 2013). Below we outline the main threads of recent scholarship, as well as highlight aspects that we think deserve more consideration.

A central issue in the study of paradigm leveling is its cause. Many scholars posit principles of uniform stem exponence (e.g., Humboldt’s Universal, Output-Output Correspondence, Uniform Exponence) that eliminate allomorphy in inflectional paradigms so as to achieve the alleged ideal of “one form, one meaning” (Kenstowicz 1996, Benua 1997, McCarthy 1998, Steriade 2000, McCarthy 2005). By contrast, Garrett (2008) argues that leveling is in effect a type of extension: what looks like the reduction of alternation within a paradigm is in fact the extension of a pattern that already exists elsewhere in the grammar (cf. Hill 2007). This analysis not only challenges long-held views of paradigm uniformity, but also prompts new questions as to why speakers extend patterns to new domains of a language.

One aspect of this debate that has not received enough attention is the phenomenon of partial leveling, according to which allomorphy in a paradigm is reduced but not removed. Prima facie it appears to undermine the idea of paradigm uniformity as an independent force of language change, since it suggests that leveling is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon. But partial leveling may in fact be a misnomer: it is possible that such cases are better explained without reference to leveling.

The second crucial component to the debate on paradigm uniformity is how we are to account for the direction of leveling. Many have argued that privileged forms of one stripe or another can be used to account for leveling (Wurzel 1984, 1987, 1990, 1998; Albright 2002a, 2002b, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010; Bybee 2006, 2015). Whether such privileged forms can reliably be expected to form pivots for analogical change is still an open question, however. It also remains unclear exactly how the privileged form (or forms) should be identified, in particular whether we should rely on markedness, frequency, or some other property. The recent infusion of information-theoretic measures into the study of morphology has the potential to provide new insights into this issue (e.g., Bane 2008, Ackerman and Malouf 2009, 2013, Blevins 2013, Milizia 2013, 2015).
Linguistic Subfield: Historical Linguistics; Morphology
LL Issue: 27.3355

This is a session of the following meeting:
International Conference on Historical Linguistics 23

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