LINGUIST List 25.3938

Tue Oct 07 2014

Calls: Computational Ling, Historical Ling, Morphology, Typology/Netherlands

Editor for this issue: Anna White <>

Date: 06-Oct-2014
From: Peter Arkadiev <>
Subject: Morphological Complexity: Empirical and Cross-linguistic Approaches
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Full Title: Morphological Complexity: Empirical and Cross-linguistic Approaches

Date: 02-Sep-2015 - 05-Sep-2015
Location: Leiden, Netherlands
Contact Person: Peter Arkadiev
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Morphology; Typology

Call Deadline: 08-Nov-2014

Meeting Description:

Morphological complexity: empirical and cross-linguistic approaches

The notion of “morphological complexity” (and “linguistic complexity” in general) has been on the linguistic agenda for more than a decade now (see, e.g., McWhorter 2001, 2005; Dahl 2004; Miestamo et al. (eds.) 2008; Sampson et al. (eds.) 2009; Trudgill 2011). Thus far, there seems to be no consensus on several key issues, such as whether morphological complexity is a relative notion (“complexity for the learner”) or rather an “absolute” phenomenon; how morphological complexity can be measured and compared across languages; and, crucially, what phenomena constitute morphological complexity.
In current typological work, measures of morphological complexity are all based on the notion of morpheme and ultimately involve counting morphemes in one way or another (cf., e.g., “complexity” as sum of head- and dependent-marking points in Nichols 1992 or “category-per-word” value in Bickel & Nichols 2013). However, linguists approaching morphological complexity from the perspective of diachrony or language contact (e.g., Dahl 2004 or Trudgill 2011) have suggested that an important, if not the primary, locus of morphological complexity is “autonomous morphology” (cf. Cruschina et al. 2013), i.e. morphological entities and processes which are not straightforwardly extramorphologically motivated, such as inflectional classes, allomorphy, patterns of syncretism, and the like. As is well known, such phenomena can be diachronically stable (Dahl 2004; Maiden 2005) but, at the same time, are the first candidates for loss in situations of language shift or creolization (McWhorter 2001; Trudgill 2011).

The goal of our workshop is to bring together linguists working on morphological typology, autonomous morphology, and language contact, in order to study the following fundamental, though yet unsolved, issues:

1) What exactly constitutes morphological complexity?
2) Do the following morphological phenomena contribute to morphological complexity and how can they be assessed from such perspective?
a. Affixes: affix ordering (e.g. templatic morphology), syntagmatic interactions between morphological markers (e.g., between prefixes and suffixes, or between suffixes of different orders) in terms of restrictions on co-occurrence, allomorphy, and semantic interpretation
b. Morphophonology, i.e. sandhi, ablaut, lenition, etc.
c. Stems: stem allomorphy, stem suppletion, morphomic distributions, etc.
d. Paradigm structure: e.g., syncretism, deponency, extended exponence, principal parts etc.
e. Autonomous morphology: inflectional classes, heteroclisis, morphomes of different kinds (Aronoff 1994), etc.
f. Non-concatenative and non-linear morphology
g. Interactions between bound morphology and periphrasis
3) How can morphological complexity be measured in an adequate way, i.e. taking into account the phenomena listed above (see, e.g., Bonami 2012; Bonami et al. 2011)?
4) How can morphological complexity be compared across languages in a principled and unbiased way, in light of the plethora of empirical phenomena subsumed under “morphology”, though not being limited to morpheme or category counts?
5) Which phenomena pertaining to morphological complexity, and under which circumstances, are prone resp. resistant to loss in different situations of language contact?
6) Are there morphological phenomena that, in situations of language contact, are subject to an increase in complexity?

Call for Papers:

Workshop Organizers:

Peter Arkadiev (Moscow)
Francesco Gardani (Vienna)

Call deadline: November 8, 2015

We invite 20 minutes presentations (+ 8 minutes for discussion) addressing the issues listed above. Preliminary abstracts (300 words, DOC and/or PDF) should be sent to both the workshop organizers (see the addresses above) by November 8, 2015.

Page Updated: 07-Oct-2014