LINGUIST List 16.3640

Tue Dec 20 2005

Review: Morphology/Syntax/Semantics: Orgun & Sells (2005)

Editor for this issue: Megan Zdrojkowski <>


        1.    Olya Gurevich, Morphology and the Web of Grammar

Message 1: Morphology and the Web of Grammar
Date: 20-Dec-2005
From: Olya Gurevich <>
Subject: Morphology and the Web of Grammar

EDITORS: Orgun, C. Orhan; Sells, Peter
TITLE: Morphology and the Web of Grammar
SUBTITLE: Essays in Memory of Steven G. Lapointe
SERIES: Stanford Studies in Morphology and the Lexicon
PUBLISHER: CSLI Publications
YEAR: 2005
Announced at

Olya Gurevich, Department of Linguistics, University of California,

This volume is a collection of papers resulting from a workshop on
morphology in memory of Steven Lapointe, held at UC Davis in April
2000. Lapointe, who passed away in 1999, worked on a variety of
topics in theoretical linguistics, with a major focus on morphology and
its relation to syntax and phonology. The papers in this volume relate
to the wide variety of Lapointe's research interests. Some of the
papers were presented at the 2000 workshop; some describe further
developments on presented work; finally, some papers by Lapointe's
close colleagues were added later.


The volume contains a preface by Lenora Trimm, Chair of the
Linguistics department at UC Davis; a short introduction by the
editors, C. Orhan Orgun and Peter Sells; eleven papers or varying
lengths; and a full list of Steven Lapointe's publications. The papers
are ordered roughly by linguistic subfield, from morphophonology to
morphological expression and morphosyntax, to syntax and semantics.

Larry M. Hyman and C. Orhan Orgun, in ''Endocyclicity and Paradigm
Non-Uniformity'', argue that cyclic phonology does not necessarily
result from constraints on paradigm uniformity, i.e. the tendency of
morphologically related word forms to be phonologically similar. They
examine morphologically conditioned consonant mutation in Bantu,
triggered by the addition of a causative suffix but not by the
applicative morpheme. When both morphemes are present, different
groups of Bantu languages demonstrate different phonological effects;
in particular, one group ends up with a consonant that is different from
the mutated consonant, but not the same as the underlying
consonant. The authors argue for a cyclic analysis of all three types
of languages within Paradigmatic Sign-Based Morphology (Dolbey
and Orgun to appear, Orgun 1996), and suggest that cyclic phonology
may disrupt paradigm uniformity.

''Remarks on Gerunds,'' by James P. Blevins, concerns so-called
hybrid categories, like gerunds in English. He suggests that gerunds
should be treated as lexical entries underspecified for word class
properties. As a result, no special category is necessary to represent
mixed cases; rather, structures that incorporate them license the
appropriate interpretations. Blevins takes an intuition expressed in
Chomsky (1970), expands it and updates earlier analyses, especially
one by Pullum (1991). The advantage of the underspecification
treatment is that it allows a unified representation of gerundive and
derived nominals. The same approach is then expanded to analyze
Welsh deverbal nouns.

In ''Rules about Paradigms,'' Gregory T. Stump shows that paradigms
need to be an explicit part of a language's grammar, not just an
epiphenomenon resulting from the application of morphosyntactic
rules. He presents two types of rules that seem to refer explicitly to
inflectional paradigms. The first is ''rules of abstraction'', where the
realization of some paradigmatic cells is determined by other
paradigmatic cells, regardless of the specific morphology of the forms
in them. Several kinds of abstraction rules are presented, with
examples from Sanskrit. The second type concerns interactions
between ordered rule blocks: the particular interaction of rule blocks in
one part of a complex inflectional system may explicitly refer to the
rule-block interaction in a different part of the system. Since rule
blocks make explicit reference to paradigms, this type of rule-block
interaction also supports the explicit need for paradigms. The
discussion is framed in terms of Paradigm-Function Morphology
(Stump 2001). Finally, the author makes a plea for a theory of
morphology that has separate principles from theories of syntax.

Jerry Sadock's ''Optimal Morphology'' makes an argument for
autonomous morphology in which inflectional forms compete to satisfy
constraints imposed by various syntactic, semantic, and morphological
factors rather than being deterministically constructed by the syntax.
The argument is based on an Internet exploration of case marking on
conjoined pronouns ''you and I'' vs. ''you and me''. The suggested
implementation is a sort of stochastically-based optimality theory,
although the author does not present a specific formalism.

Andrew Spencer, in ''Towards a Typology of 'Mixed
Categories,''' examines possible relationships between lexemes:
morphological, syntactic and semantic. He suggests that most often,
the relations between the three layers in a lexicon are one-to-one, so
that a single morphological class (e.g. adjectival inflection)
corresponds to a single syntactic class (modifier) and a single
semantic class (denoting a property), but that there can exist
mismatches in all possible combinations of properties. He presents
examples of most types of mismatches, relying on various types of
transpositions and unusual derivations. The major theoretical point is
that languages can 'subvert the canonical mappings' between
morphology, syntax, and semantics, in many possible ways, and these
possibilities must be key in describing the lexicon of a given language.

''Dual Lexical Categories and Inflectional Morphology'' by James Yoon
argues that inflected forms and mixed lexical categories are
fundamentally alike in that the features determining phrase-internal
syntax differ from the features determining external syntax. This fact
is fairly well established for mixed categories. For inflectional
categories, Yoon presents arguments from Korean and Salish to
demonstrate that features of the root are responsible for internal
syntax, whereas inflectional features are responsible for external
syntax, and the two may be independent. Yoon examines these two
types of categories within Lexicalist approaches to morphology (such
as Pollard and Sag 1994), where they are treated as fundamentally
different, and suggests an extension to Lapointe's Dual Lexical
Category Theory (DLC; Lapointe 1993; 1999) so as to accommodate
inflectional morphology.

Patrick Farrell's ''Prepositional Small Clauses in English: A Dual-
Category Analysis'' looks at English phrases like 'the pope in a bikini'
and argues that such phrases are subject-containing small clauses
headed by a preposition. The author presents evidence that the small
clauses behave like DPs with respect to the rest of the sentence, and
like subject-containing PPs internally. He suggests an analysis along
the lines of Lapointe's DLC, arguing that the heads of such small
clauses are prepositions (P) with respect to internal syntax, and
determiners (D) with respect to external syntax.

''Morphological and Constructional Expression and Recoverability of
Verbal Features'' by Peter Sells deals with the auxiliary 'ha' ('have') in
Swedish, which in some contexts is optional. A careful examination of
such contexts reveals that 'ha' can be omitted when some other verb
in the clause overtly expresses finiteness, or when finiteness can be
recovered from context, such as from the presence of certain
auxiliaries or nominative subject pronouns. An analysis is presented
within Optimality-Theoretic Lexical-Functional Theory (Bresnan 2000,
Kuhn 2001).

Almerindo Ojeda and Tamara Grivicic, in ''The Semantics of Serbo-
Croatian Collectives,'' discuss a regular class of nouns in Serbo-
Croatian that have separate forms for singular and plural individuals,
and singular and plural collections of individuals. The semantics of
such nouns are analyzed within a model-theoretic approach
developed in (Ojeda 1993). The basic claim is that the sets of
possible individuals and their combinations into groups form a
mereological lattice, and the word forms pick out different sub-parts of
this lattice.

Greg Carlson's ''When Morphology . . . Disappears'' examines several
cases in which otherwise expected morphological markers are absent,
e.g. lack of articles, case-marking, and doubled clitics. The contexts
with missing morphology involve weak indefinite or generic
interpretations of nouns. The author proposes a multi-level semantic
analysis in which the interpretation of weak indefinites can happen at
the initial, lexical levels of meaning assignment, whereas the
interpretation of specific and definite noun phrases requires more
contextual information and thus must happen at the later, sentence-
related levels. Thus, there is no reason to assume that the absence
of morphology carries meaning; rather, weak indefinites correspond to
a ''zero'' meaning, and definites receive additional meaning carried by
overt morphology.

In ''The Puzzle of Ambiguity,'' Thomas Wasow, Amy Perfors, and David
Beaver examine the relation between linguistic theories and
ambiguity. They suggest that despite being extremely widespread,
ambiguity in natural language is not accounted for in any obvious way
by existing theories of linguistic analysis, language use, evolution, or
processing. They evaluate several speculative suggestions for the
communicative function of possible sources of ambiguity, and come to
the conclusion that it remains a very difficult problem, and much more
research is needed to place it properly within the study of natural


The papers in this volume represent a wide spread of linguistic topics,
reflecting the diversity of Steven Lapointe's interests. The quality of
the papers is almost uniformly high, and many of the contributors are
researchers well-known in their fields. A common thread in many of
the papers is that morphology has separate principles of organization
from syntax or phonology.

Thematically, the largest group of papers concerns ''dual'' (or ''mixed'')
lexical categories, reflecting one of Lapointe's most important
contributions to the discipline (Lapointe 1993, 1999). It is perhaps
useful here to summarize the main point of Lapointe's theory. He
looks at cases, such as gerunds, that represent mismatches between
phrase-internal and phrase-external syntax, e.g. ''Their reading the
paper was unexpected.'' The analysis involves dual categories ,
where X and Y are major lexical categories, such that X determines
the external syntactic distribution of the phrase it heads, and Y
determines internal syntactic properties of that phrase. Thus, English
gerunds are represented as , behaving as nouns externally and
as verbs phrase-internally.

Blevins deals with some of the same data as Lapointe and expresses
a similar intuition that categorial hybrids fulfill multiple functions within
a single phrase. However, his well-argued analysis involves under-
specification rather than over-specification of the properties of such
hybrids. Spencer, on the other hand, views the idea of dual, or mixed,
categories as somewhat misguided, because it reifies the notion
of 'category' and makes it sound more stable than it really is. He
argues that what we think of as part-of-speech categories is simply
one of the ways in which different levels of grammar (morphology,
syntax, and semantics) can be mapped onto each other. However, he
does not specify how such possible mappings may be implemented in
a grammar, so it is conceivable that Blevins' under-specification
analysis of gerunds could fit into Spencer's expanded typology.

The papers by Yoon and Farrell represent extensions of Lapointe's
DLC theory. Farrell argues convincingly that prepositional small
clauses have a DP-like external distribution and suggests that they
are headed by prepositions. From here, it is easy to see how an
analysis of prepositions as categories would work, although the
arguments that the clauses are, indeed, headed by prepositions seem
to depend crucially on the assumptions of X-bar theory, and more
theory-independent evidence would be welcome. Yoon's suggestion
that inflectional morphology is a case of mixed categories is
interesting; however, his arguments against existing Lexicalist views of
inflection seem somewhat problematic. He assumes a very simple
version of the Head-Feature Principle in which all properties of the
head must be passed up to the higher node. However, it is easy
enough to imagine that only some of the features of a word (i.e. just
the inflectional features) are passed up to determine external syntax,
while only some of the features (i.e. just the root features) are used to
determine internal syntax. Lapointe's DLC theory was designed
primarily for lexical categories; it seems that modifying it to work for
inflection is a radical step that may not be necessary given a
sufficiently sophisticated view of the Lexicalist proposals.

Two of the papers touch on paradigms. Stump provides very
convincing arguments for the inclusion of paradigm structure in
grammar. Unfortunately, some of his arguments are a bit difficult to
follow without knowing the details of Paradigm-Function Morphology
(Stump 2001). Hyman and Orgun suggest that not only does
grammar include paradigms, but it also explicitly specifies their
structure. Although this was not a major part of their paper, some
explanation as to why this should be, and what kinds of constraints
grammar may put on paradigms, would have been a good addition.

Several papers concern Optimality Theory and, more generally,
constraint satisfaction and ranking. Sadock, dealing with
morphological choice, suggests that linguistic forms must comply with
a set of probabilistically ranked constraints on form, syntax, semantics,
etc. He makes a convincing argument that there are different kinds of
pressures acting on a speaker when making this choice. This
approach, however, needs more elaboration: it is unclear exactly how
a constraint-ranking analysis would work and what role is given to
individual speaker parameters such as dialect, speech register, etc.
Sells analyzes optionality as two possible constraint rankings: one in
which the auxiliary is omitted, and one in which it is present. However,
it is unclear when speakers prefer one ranking over another, i.e.
whether there are additional discourse factors affecting the choice, or
whether some speakers omit the auxiliary more often than others.

The papers on semantics round out the volume nicely, although they
seem somewhat disconnected from the rest of the papers and do not
display the same sophistication as others, especially in morphological
or syntactic matters. In Ojeda and Grivicic's analysis, it is unclear,
given the denotational similarity between individualized plurals and
collective forms, how the different word forms are semantically
different. The assumption that morphological derivation must
correspond exactly to semantic derivation also leads to a strange
conclusion that the meaning of the root underlying all the count nouns
is a mass noun. Carlson's analysis of missing morphology would
benefit from a reference to other articles arguing in favor of
paradigms, where the contrast between the presence and absence of
morphology could automatically signal a contrast in meaning. While
his suggestion that missing morphology corresponds to missing
semantics is intriguing, there is too little data to support the
overarching conclusions about how indefinites are marked
morphologically or semantically.

Finally, some more general critical remarks are in order. It is stated in
the introduction that some of the papers were presented at the 2000
workshop on morphology at UC Davis. However, it is often unclear
from the papers themselves whether the same material was presented
at the workshop, or whether they were included in the volume later.
Such clarifications would have given a more accurate picture of the
workshop. Also, there seems to be no interaction between the
papers. Given that some of the authors attended the same workshop,
and that many of the papers deal with similar topics, some amount of
cross-reference would make the volume more coherent as a unit. In a
similar vein, some of the authors present very technical analyses
without explaining the necessary background for their respective
theories. Given that this is a fairly broad-coverage collection of
papers, it would have been nice to see more effort to make them
accessible to the general reader.


Bresnan, Joan (2000) Optimal Syntax. In J. Dekkers, F. van der
Leeuw, and J. van de Weijer, (eds.), Optimality Theory: Phonology,
Syntax, and Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 334-385.

Chomsky, Noam (1970) Remarks on Nominalization. In R.A. Jacoms
and P.S. Rosenbaum, (eds.), Readings in English Transformational
Grammar. Waltham: Ginn and Company, 232-286. [Reprinted in
Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar. The Hague: Mouton, 1-

Dolbey, Andrew, and C. Orhan Orgun (to appear) Phonology-
Morphology Interaction in a Constraint-Based Framework. In C. Reiss
and G. Ramchand, (eds.) Handbook on Interface Research in
Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kuhn, Jonas (2001). Generation and Parsing in Optimality Theoretic
syntax: Issues in the formalization of OT-LFG. In P. Sells, (ed.),
Formal and Empirical Issues in Optimality Theoretic Syntax. Stanford:
CSLI Publications, 313-366.

Lapointe, Steven G. (1980) A Theory of Grammatical Agreement,
Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Lapointe, Steven G. (1993) Dual Lexical Categories and the Syntax of
Mixed Category Phrases. I In A. Kathol and M. Bernstein, (eds.),
Proceedings of the Eastern States Conference on Linguistics. Dept.
of Linguistics, Cornell University, 199-210.

Lapointe, Steven G. (1999) Dual Lexical Categories vs. Phrasal
Conversion in the Analysis of Gerund Phrases. In P. DeLacy and A.
Nowak, (eds.), University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 24: Papers from the 25th Aniiversary. University of
Massachusetts, Amherst: GLSA, 157-189.

Ojeda, Almerindo (1993) Linguistic Individuals. [CSLI Lecture Notes,
31]. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Orgun, C.Orhan (1996) Sign-Based Morphology and Phonology with
Special Attention to Optimality. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of
California, Berkeley.

Pollard, Carl and Ivan Sag (1994) Head-Driven Phrase Structure
Grammar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pullum, Geoffrey K. (1991) English nominal gerund phrases as noun
phrases with verb-phrase heads. Linguistics 29: 763-799.

Stump, Gregory T. (2001) Inflectional Morphology: A Theory of
Paradigm Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Olya Gurevich is a PhD Candidate in Linguistics at UC Berkeley. Her
research interests include morphology, syntax, and semantics; and
cognitive and computational linguistics. She is currently completing
her dissertation, "Constructional Morphology: The Georgian Version."