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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Minding the Gaps: Inflectional defectiveness in a paradigmatic theory Add Dissertation
Author: Andrea Sims Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Ohio State University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2006
Linguistic Subfield(s): Morphology;
Subject Language(s): Greek, Modern
Director(s): Brian Joseph
Daniel Collins
Mary Beckman

Abstract: A central question within morphological theory is whether an adequate
description of inflection necessitates connections between and among
inflectionally related forms, i.e. paradigmatic structure. Recent research
on form-meaning mismatches at the morphological and morphosyntactic levels
(e.g., periphrasis, syncretism) argues that an adequate theory of
inflection must be paradigmatic at its core. In this dissertation I argue
that paradigmatic gaps support some of the same conclusions are other
form-meaning mismatches (e.g., the need for the Separation Hypothesis), and
offer insight into the internal structure of the stem paradigm. I focus on
two questions that paradigmatic gaps raise for morphological theory:

1) Are paradigmatic gaps paradigmatically governed? Stump and Finkel (2006)
argue that inflectional structure consists of implicational relationships
whereby one or more paradigm cells serve as principal parts, from which
other members of the paradigm can be predicted. Based on production/ratings
experiments and distributional statistics from gaps in the genitive plural
of Modern Greek nouns and the first person singular of Russian verbs, I
argue for a corollary hypothesis – that paradigmatic gaps can arise in
paradigm cells whose form cannot be predicted from nor are predictive of
other members of the paradigm. The distribution of these gaps can thus be
adequately explained only with reference to the inflectional (stem)
paradigm. This is largely consistent with the conclusions of Albright
(2003) for Spanish.

2) Is there such a thing as lexically specified defectiveness? Or, stated
differently, are paradigmatic cells ever stipulated as empty? Early studies
generally assumed that gaps are idiosyncratic and therefore require lexical
specification (Halle 1973), but more recent approaches have sought to
explain at least some gaps are byproducts of the generative inflectional
process, and therefore not directly marked in the lexicon (Albright 2003,
Hudson 2000). I argue that historical causation is not to be confused with
synchronic structure; the distributional pattern of paradigmatic gaps in
Greek are consistent with the gaps-as-epiphenomena approach, but this
appears to be a historical remnant. Experimental data on speakers'
reactions to defective vs. non-defective morphological forms in Greek shows
that the gaps have become disassociated from their original causative
factors. This indicates that gaps are like any other morphological pattern
in being able to undergo lexicalization.

Paradigmatic gaps in Greek and Russian demonstrate that paradigmatic
predictability is a significant force in formal morphological systems.
Moreover, in many respects paradigmatic gaps are surprisingly similar to
well-formed morphological structures, for example in being governed by
paradigmatic structure and subject to covert reanalysis. This indicates
that, contrary to traditional assumptions, (many examples of) paradigmatic
gaps are neither idiosyncratic nor marginal to the functioning of the
inflectional system. They thus deserve greater attention within
morphological theory.