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Review of  Lexical Strata in English: Morphological Causes, Phonological Effects

Reviewer: Graham Vintcent Horwood
Book Title: Lexical Strata in English: Morphological Causes, Phonological Effects
Book Author: Heinz J. Giegerich
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 12.1567

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Review of Giegerich, Heinz J. 1999. Lexical Strata in
English: Morphological Causes, Phonological Effects.
Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 89. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. $69.95.

Reviewed by Graham Horwood, Rutgers University

The author's short introduction presents the work as the
reanimation of a dead framework, arguing that in fact,
despite criticisms levied against Lexical Phonology (LP
henceforth) in the late eighties, a sizeable body of the
framework's achievements are salvageable under a subtle
realignment of the definitional basis of 'strata'.
Giegerich (HG henceforth) argues that the critical
failing-point of LP was the affix-driven stratification
hypothesis. This model presumes that the morphology of a
given stratum is defined by the collective behaviors of
diacritically-marked affixes. HG observes that the
existence of 'dual-stata' affixes, those which display
characteristics consistent with more than one stratum,
undermines any coherent notion of what a 'stratum' is in the
first place. HG's solution to the dilemma comes in the
theory of 'base-driven' stratification, the driving
theoretical force behind the remainder of the work. If
strata are defined with respect to the characteristics of
affixational bases (roots, stems, words), polystratal
affixes cease to undermine the theory, and a number of
problematic cases for traditional LP receive a relatively
straightforward account.

The second chapter elaborates on the short-comings of the
affix-driven stratification theory. The author first
outlines in detail the various diagnostics proposed in past
literatures for determining the stratal classification of
various morphemes. HG goes on to catalog the fourteen
derivational suffixes of English which defy simple
categorization by these diagnostics, demonstrating behaviors
endemic of both stratum-1 and stratum-2. The commonly cited
suffix -able/-ible, for instance, occurs in doublets such as
tolerable/toleratable; the semantic non-compositionality of
the former ("moderately good") is indicative of stratum one
behavior, while the semantic transparency of the latter
("able to tbe tolerated") is stereotypical of stratum-2. It
is necessary to mention that HG does put a considerable
amount of explanatory burden on such forms as 'gormless', an
example which *might* prove that an otherwise well behaved
stratum-2 suffix like -less can demonstrate the canonically
stratum-1 property of affixing to a bound root. It might
also demonstrate that lexicalized, morphologically simple
(and largely uninformative) forms may bear a remarkable
phonological resemblance to morphologically complex ones.
HG concludes that the groups of phonological, morphological,
and semantic characteristics which define a stratum are not
in fact discrete, but may overlap for some morphemes.

HG demonstrates a number of other failings of affix-driven
stratification in Chapter 3, going on to argue that,
collectively, the weaknesses of the theory serve as an
indicator of the changes which LP must undergo in order to
remain a viable framework. First and foremost, HG observes
that many of the predictions made in the affix-based model
by the Affix Ordering Generalization (Selkirk 1982; AOG
henceforth)--no stratum-2 affix can occur inside a stratum
one boundary, but the opposite may occur freely-- are in
fact ruled out by idiosyncratic facts of individual affixes
as argued by Fabb (1988). Words such as *sensiblize, for
instance, are to be expected under the AOG. Furthermore,
many of the ordering facts originally accounted for by the
AOG are equally well explained by the observation that
affixes diacritically marked [+Latinate] never attach to
forms marked [-Latinate]. The fact that this [+/-Latinate]
constraint holds equally well for both simplex and complex
words (for example, *shortity and *homelessity) suggests
that in this domain at least a stratal split must be made
according to properties of *bases* rather than *affixes*.
Taking this observation to a higher logical plane, HG argues
that in fact stratal categorizations are reducible to the
lexically listed diacritical markings of the base to which a
morpheme attaches.

On stratum-1, each morpheme (simple root or affix) is coded
to directly select for the affix(es) which may attach to it.
Thus HG accounts for: a) the fact that a majority of
traditionally stratum-1 affixed forms are relatively
unproductive and semantically noncompositional; b) the
ill-formedness of *sensiblize; and c) the robustness of the
[+/-Latinate] constraint. Forms such as [gorm-] select for
[-less]; [short] selects for [-ness], not [-ity]; [sense]
selects for [-ible], but [-ible] does not select for [-ize].
The empirical coverage of the model is quite broad. As it
result from lexical stipulation rather than grammatical
principle, however, the possibility of any formulization of
generalizations regarding the ordering of affixes, including
the [+/-Latinate] constraint, is lost. HG is undaunted by
this fact, pointing to such examples as 'withdrawal' and
'winterise' to show that in fact that the [+/-Latinate]
constraint is not so inviolable as previously suggested.
This reviewer is independently aware of further evidence for
such an analysis; in the Australian Aboriginal Language,
Kayardild (Evans 1996), suppletive allomorphy in
multiply-suffixed forms is conditioned by the form of any
immediately adjacent morpheme (be it the root or another
affix), rather than just the declension of the root. I
mention this fact to lend some support to the author's
somewhat stipulative analysis, as well as to draw attention
to what I take to be a deficit of the book. While obviously
the primary matter of a work entitled _Lexical Strata in
English_ must be the English language, HG's apparent refusal
to weigh his assumptions and conclusions against the facts
of other languages (except of course German, hardly a
language in dramatic typological contrast with English)
leaves the reader to wonder at the universality of his

The crucial distinction between stratum-1 and stratum-2
affixes proves to be a more troublesome aspect of HG's
model. Traditionally, one of the distinguishing properties
of stratum-1 and -2 affixes is that the former may attach to
bound roots unspecified for lexical category (such as
'gorm-'), while the latter may not. This distinction is
captured in HG's system with the assumption that all
stratum-1 morphemes (even morphologically complex "roots"
derived through several stratum-1 affixations) are
unspecified for lexical category, while all stratum-2 forms
are fully specified as words; roots acquire category
information in the process of becoming words, i.e.,
undergoing a root-to-word conversion rule. With this
assumption comes a readily obvious dilemma: how are robustly
attested selectional restrictions of stratum-1 suffixes to
be captured (-able attaches to verbs, but not nouns, for
instance)? HG answers this question with the assumption
that roots--while free of categorial information proper--are
diacritically marked for the category they will become after
root-to-word conversion. This crucial distinction between
after-root-to-word-conversion and noun seems somewhat

HG's root-to-word conversion rule is shown in Chapter 4 to
serve double duty in the proposed framework, not just acting
as a formal bridge between root and word strata, but also
subsuming the utility of the 'identity rules' of Kiparsky
(1982). For underived words, root-to-word
conversion--disjunctively ordered with structure changing
rules under Kiparsky's (ibid.) Elsewhere
Condition--constitutes a more lexically specialized (every
base is listed with its appropriate conversion rule) stratum
one process capable of blocking more general structure
changing rules. As a consequence, so-called Strict Cylicity
Effects (SCE) are divorced from cyclicity proper, and hinge
instead on the stratal location of a form at a given point
in the derivation: SCE holds for all cycles in all non-final
strata. This is a welcome result for HG, who goes on to
show that, resultingly, any need to arbitrarily designate a
"pre-morphology" cycle for free roots (to the exclusion of
bound roots) is obviated, and similarly the need for
'free-ride' derivations, wherein never-surfacing underlying
forms are posited solely for the reduction of rule
complexity, are no longer necessary in a number of
oft-discussed problems of LP, including English Vowel Shift
and mn-Simplification. The investigations of the remaining
chapters of the book are motivated primarily by the author's
desire to rid LP of such analyses.

In Chapter 5, the author attempts to argue on
psycholinguistic grounds that grammatically costly
derivations are preferable to more grammatically economical
analyses. Traditionally, analyses of derivationally related
pairs such as 'atom - atomic' have non-controversially
relied on some rule of Vowel Reduction to operate on the
morphologically simplex form, reducing its second-syllable
vowel to schwa. HG argues that analyses such as these are
ill founded as they rely on the (apparently ridiculous)
assumption that language learners must hear the
morphologically complex form and associate it with the
simplex form before its underlying full vowel can be
posited. The incidentals of the author's admittedly *more*
complex alternative analysis are not key to discussion here;
some objection to the author's final conclusions, however,
must be raised. It is rightly observed that written forms
can influence pronunciation in adult production grammars.
The author's insistence, however, that "Only the literate
speaker can establish a regular derivational path from
'atom' to 'atomic'" (166) is a questionable conclusion about
the linguistic competence of English speakers generally.
Based on this statement, the author must conclude that
members of the English speaking world's very large
percentage of illiterate speakers make no derivational
connection between such forms, memorize their surface forms
by rote, and in fact possess phonological grammars
completely free of the complex system of phonological rules
alluded to above. Furthermore, since the rote listing of
stratum-1 forms is taken to be one of the commendable points
of the author's system in Chapter 3, it remains to be seen
why the language acquisition system of *literate* speakers
would burden itself with such a complex grammatical
architecture when memorization is an equally tenable option.

Chapters 6 and 7 provide in-depth analysis of [r]-sandhi
phenomena in dialects of British English--for example
alternations such as 'hea[0] - hea[r]ing' in RP (Received
Pronunciation). Paralleling it with [j]- and [w]-sandhi in
examples like 'sa[y] it' and 'sho[w] it', HG takes
[r]-sandhi to be an effect of liaison, resulting as an
underlyingly unspecified nuclear melody is filled by
postlexical default rules. Various arguments, diachronic,
synchronic, and dialectal, are given for this treatment of
the alternating segment as unspecified for [+/-consonantal].

HG's treatment of liaison leads naturally into discussion of
syllabification in Chapter 8. The principle deviation HG
makes from standard LP here lies in his argument that there
is no need for structure-changing resyllabification rules in
the proposed model. Challenges to this argument come in
comparison of syllabic-sonorant alternations such as 'hinder
- hindrance', as well as forms showing liaison. HG's
approach to such examples is to formulate his stratum-1
syllabification rules in such a way as to leave word-final
consonants unsyllabified until stratum-2, where a special
'Rhyme Condition' rule syllabifies final sonorants as
rhymes; stratum-1 affixed forms, such as 'hindrance', will
avoid the rule, while stratum-2 affixations will show its
effects, as found with the stratum-2 gerundive suffix in
'hindering'. HG's treats of exceptions to the rule--for
example 'kindling' (i.e., wood used to start a fire)--as
being reanalyzed from stratum-2 affixation to stratum-1.
This appears to be one of the less restrictive aspects of
his framework. Since affixes are no longer tied to
particular strata by dint of their collective phonological
behaviors, it obtains that *any* given counter-example to
one of HG's assertions about the nature of stratum-2
morphology can simply be dismissed to stratum-1 through

Overall, the work is worthy of a tentatively positive
review. On the negative side, the author does not at any
point attempt to evaluate his LP against the findings of
more current theories of morpho-phonology. This somewhat
cloistered theoretical standpoint does detract considerably
from the work's utility. However, for the student of
morpho-phonology not so fortunate as to be intimately
involved in the flurry of work in LP which emerged in the
'80s and early '90s, the book serves as an excellent
introduction of the intricacies of that theory. HG's
overview of and comparison with the earlier theory is
sufficiently general to facilitate understanding of many of
the foundational assumptions and achievements of LP, and
his own innovations regarding it do possess some insight
beyond the limitations of the chosen framework. In the
earlier chapters particularly, HG's work is more a
consideration of the underlying theory of morphological
organization behind LP than one of the precise formulation
of the phonological rules of English. As such, it is
valuable to the morpho-phonologist working under the
assumptions of any given framework.

Selkirk, Elisabeth. 1982. _The syntax of words_ (Linguistic
Inquiry Monographs; 7). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fabb, Nigel. 1988. "English suffixation is constrained only
by selectional restrictions", Natural Language and
Linguistic Theory 6: 527-539.

Evans, Nick. 1996. _A grammar of Kayardild : with
historical-comparative notes on Tangkic_. New York:
M. de Gruyter.

Kiparsky, Paul. 1982. "Lexical phonology and morphology."
Pages 3-91 in I.S. Yang Linguistics in the morning
calm, volume 2. Seoul: Hanshin.

Graham Horwood is a Ph.D. student at Rutgers University.
His current work explores processual morphology and the
implications of lexical-network based morphological
architectures for Optimality Theory.


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