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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Academic Paper


Title: Maximising Stems
Paper URL: http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/events/lingo/papers/caity.taylor.pdf
Author: Catherine Taylor
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://pandammonium.org/
Institution: (personal interest - not currently working at a university)
Linguistic Field: Morphology
Subject Language: Spanish
Abstract: Aronoff (1994) and Stump (2001) have shown that stems in inflectional morphology are morphomic; a morphomic stem is that part of a word to which inflectional material is added and has no meaning of its own. A single lexeme may have more than one stem and that stem may be distributed paradigmatically, as opposed to syntagmatically. The stems must be identified before it is possible to determine the distribution. As yet, there is no definitive method to determine the stem inventory, so, in theory, the stem of the Spanish conditional indicative cantaríamos 'we would sing' could be anything from cant+aríamos to cantaría+mos. The infinitive form, cantar, is found in the conditional for regular verbs; the infinitive form clearly cannot have the meaning of 'infinitive' in this context.

I suggest that these facts show that the logic of the morphomic stem concept should be taken to its conclusion. I put forward the stem maximisation principle, whereby a morphologically complex form is assumed to be, by default, a morphomic stem; therefore only those affixes that can be shown to be unambiguous in meaning or function are valid inflections. All systematic syncretisms are counted only once; a morphomic stem is therefore any (partial) form which appears in more than one cell in the paradigm, even if the stem is associated with a meaning or feature by default. Hence, cantar, above, is associated by default with the 'infinitive' meaning, but is still found as a morphomic stem in the conditional and future indicative.

Using the Spanish conjugation to illustrate the stem maximisation principle showed an unexpected result: an affix can be meaningless without being part of a morphomic stem. The Spanish affix -í- appears to realise the conditional and imperfect indicative (conj.2/conj.3); these forms (cantarí-¸comerí-, vivirí- cond.; comí-, viví- impf.) are not used with any other meaning and are therefore not morphomic stems, but 'part-word syncretisms'. The conditional is built on the 'infinitive' stem, but inflected as a 2nd/3rd conjugation impf. indicative. This is captured in a modified form of Paradigm Function Morphology (Stump 2001): to form the conditional of any verb, the morphology constructs a 'virtual lexeme' of 2nd/3rd conjugation using the 'infinitive' stem as the root and inflecting it as the imperfect indicative.

I will show that the stem maximisation principle can handle paradigmatic stem organisation, even where (part of) a paradigm is completely regular.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: University of Oxford
Publication Info: Online Proceedings of Lingo 2007, University of Oxford, pp. 228–235
URL: http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/events/lingo/papers/caity.taylor.pdf


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