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Review of  The Oxford Encyclopedia of Morphology

Reviewer: Alexandra Galani
Book Title: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Morphology
Book Author: Rochelle Lieber
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Issue Number: 32.2669

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The second volume of “The Oxford Encyclopedia of Morphology”, by Rochelle Lieber, opens with five articles which conclude the discussion on “Formal Morphological Means” (volume one).

Thomas W. Stewart in “Stem Change (Apophony, Consonant Mutation) in Morphology” examines apophony in the Germanic languages, Javanese and Dinka, consonant mutation in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Fula and the role of morphology/phonology in stem alternations.

In “Combining Forms and Affixoids in Morphology”, Dany Amiot and Edwige Dugas review the formal and semantic properties of prototypical derivation and compounding, the properties that distinguish combining form (CF) constituents, classical/modern CFs, neoclassical compounds, blending, the defining criteria for affixoids, prototypical affixoids, affixoids corresponding to prepositions/splinters and the development of affixoids.

Natalia Beliaeva in “Blending in Morphology” explores the formal and semantic properties of blends, the factors that influence source words’ ordering, blends’ structure, their phonotactic constraints, the domains in which blends are used, blending across languages and the relation between blending and clipping compounds/acronyms.

Renata Szczepaniak looks at the environments in which “Linking Elements in Morphology” (LE) occur, LEs distribution/productivity, various terms associated with them, LEs’ presence in compounds (in Slavic, Germanic, Romance, Baltic languages, Greek, other language families), neoclassical compounds, LEs in derivatives (in Romance, Slavic, Germanic languages, Greek) and their development/function.

Stela Manova discusses terminological issues related to “Subtraction in Morphology”, what is deleted, how subtraction differs from other types of shortening, the importance of investigating large/small datasets in well/lesser-studied languages and the characteristics of subtractive morphology.

Morphological Frameworks

In “American Descriptivist Morphology in the 1950s”, John Goldsmith guides us through the work of Bloomfield (1933), Hockett (1954), Harris (1946) and Nida (1949) on the nature of phonemes, morphemes and words. Reference is made to models of dynamic analysis, constituent structure, the role of morphophonemes and Martinet’s (1950) criticism.

Pius ten Hacken provides an overview of the “Classical Generative Morphology” period during which morphology was not seen as a separate component until the Lexicalist Hypothesis’ development. Research was then focused on the morphological rules’ nature/shape, verbal compounds, the Level-Ordering Hypothesis, bracketing paradoxes, productivity, blocking, inflection and derivation.

Wolfgang U. Dressler discusses the universal preferences of “Natural Morphology” (NM) (iconicity, indexicality, morphosemantic transparency, (bi)uniqueness, morphotactic transparency, figure-ground sharpening, binary relations, morphological units’ optimal shape), the theory of typological adequacy, productivity/system adequacy for language-specific inflection and interface theories.

Jonathan David Bobaljik outlines the principles of Distributed Morphology” (DM) and considers realisation, underspecification, impoverishment, structural locality/suppletion, morphological operations and issues related to the spell-out domains, linearisation, case, agreement, roots and the concept of Encyclopedia.

In “Construction Morphology” (CM), Geert Booij points towards the theory of Parallel Architecture of Grammar and explores constructional schemas, affixoids, the paradigmatic relationship of second-order schemas, the syntax-morphology relation (e.g., multi-word sequences), morphology’s dependence upon syntactic constructions, how inflection is seen, constructions’ role in language change, CM and acquisition.

Marios Andreou considers the issues the “Lexical Semantic Framework for Morphology” (LSF) deals with. He refers to LSF features and architecture, the major ontological classes, their lexical-semantic properties, derivation, argumentative/co-ordinate/attributive compounds and how LSF explains form and meaning mismatches.

Gregory Stump in “Paradigm Function Morphology: Assumptions and Innovations” (PFM) outlines PFM’s fundamental hypothesis and generalisations. Constructive and abstractive approaches may co-occur in a theory. Recent PFM innovations deal with content and form inflectional mismatches and rule conflation. Reference is made to Stump’s (2001) work in favour of inferential-realisation models.

Jesús Fernández-Domínguez offers background notes on the emergence of “The Onomasiological Approach”, presents nine models--divided in three types (Dokulilean, lexicosemantic, generative)--evaluates the approach and identifies research areas of interest.

Tore Nesset, in “Morphology in Cognitive Linguistics” (CL), looks at the properties of construction, product-orientated generalisations represented as constructional schemas, meaning in morphology (radial category, metaphor, metonymy), hierarchical relationships between schemas, non-compositionality in compounds, allomorphy, inflectional paradigms/classes, frequency effects, the quantitative turn CL took and how this affected morphological approaches.

Andrew Hippisley outlines “Network Morphology” (NM), the main feature of which is inheritance (by default). Rules of referral explain directional syncretism, whereas attribute ordering neutralisation syncretism. For NM, morphology is autonomous, morphological mismatches are interpreted by overriding attribute paths, derivational morphology is seen as a kind of lexical relatedness, whereas lexical/inflectional/derivational levels are distinct hierarchies of the network.

Theoretical Debates

Beata Moskal and Peter W. Smith examine “The Status of Heads in Morphology” by looking at percolation in X’-theory, category determination, the Right-hand Head Rule (RHR) and its challenges which led to the Relativised RHR, Feature Percolation Conventions, mixed systems, issues which arise when the criteria about headedness are applied and how DM accounts for category determination.

Terje Lohndal reviews claims about the “Categorization of Roots”, presents evidence which indicates their acategorial status and shows how they get categorised in DM and in the Exoskeletal Approach.

In “Lexical Integrity in Morphology”, Ignacio Bosque considers phenomena and structures which challenge the Lexical Integrity Hypothesis (LIH); nominalisations’ argument structure, phrases inside words, prefixes, endoclitics, bracketing paradoxes, base coordination, morpheme ellipsis, pronominalisations and compounds. He shows why LIH “is both relevant and controversial” (p. 1151).

Víctor Acedo-Matellán highlights the role of acceptability, the lexicon and grammar on “Exoskeletal Versus Endoskeletal Approaches in Morphology”. Evidence from morphosyntactic categories in derivation, inflectional class and gender, the count/mass distinction in nominals and the (a)telic distinction in verbs favour one of the two approaches.

Franz Rainer examines various morphological phenomena which fall under “Blocking”, how morphology/the lexicon block syntax and vice-versa, the blocking “between the lexicon/word formation and patterns of semantic extension” (p. 1176), how different approaches account for synonymy/homonymy blocking, lexical/pattern blocking and factors that differentiate them, where blocking takes place and what prevents it.

Andrew Spencer explores “The Nature of Productivity (including Word Formation Versus Creative Coining)” by looking at loans, calques, nonce-formation, outbursts, deictic compounds. In terms of lexical relatedness, form/pattern productivity, semantic idiosyncrasy and approaches to productivity are discussed. Productivity relates to semantic relatedness, syntactic constructions, inflection and compounding. When computing productivity, the stand one takes on potential, virtual and attested words is of importance. Realised/expanding productivity and hapax legomena measure productivity.

In “Bracketing Paradoxes in Morphology” (BP), Heather Newell identifies four types of BP, sketches BP’ theoretical basis (namely, the acceptance of a hierarchical structure in grammar) and discusses relevant theoretical treatments.

In “Zero Morphemes” (ZMs), Eystein Dahl and Antonio Fábregas distinguish zero morphology (ZM) from null phonological marking and morphological representation, examine the properties theories that (dis)allow ZMs have and discuss zero derivation and psycholinguistic evidence in favour of ZM.

In “The Nature of Subtractive Processes in Morphology”, Kazutaka Kurisu refers to truncation phenomena, blends and acronyms, reviews theories which see subtraction as a process or a consequence of affixation and explores noncatenative allomorphy, theoretical restrictiveness and parallel/serial accounts of subtractive morphology.

Psycholinguistic Issues

In “Psycholinguistic Approaches to Morphology: Production”, Benjamin V. Tucker sketches the main methodologies used in morphological speech production and speech production models. Morphology occurs in the lexical stage. Research focuses on the lexical representation/access.

In “Psycholinguistic Approaches to Morphology: Theoretical issues”, Christina L. Gagné explains how morphology is represented in the systems, the stage at which morphemes become available -for which empirical evidence is presented- and how morphemes contribute to complex words’ activation. Complex words’ processing varies (i.e., whole-word representations, dual-route parallel processing).

In “Morphological Units: A Theoretical and Psycholinguistic Perspective”, Dominiek Sandra refers to the relation of morphology with phonemes, syntactic structures and allomorphs and distinctions between morphological concepts (e.g., roots, semantically opaque/transparent words). Psycholinguistic research (experimental studies) investigates the morphemes’ role in the mental lexicon and word representation access.

In “Words Versus Rules (Storage Versus Online Production/Processing) in Morphology”, Vsevolod Kapatsinski considers word storage/computation in terms of productivity/morphological regularity, the dual-mechanism model, the Tolerance Principle, token frequency and its relation to processing/productivity alongside the interplay between computation and retrieval (and vice versa).

Robert Fiorentino, in “Issues in Neurolinguistic Studies of Morphology”, examines morpheme decomposition in derived and inflectional forms, the processing of novel and complex words “outside priming paradigms”, studies on the morphosyntactic and morphosemantic decomposition and the early stages of complex word recognition.

In “First Language Acquisition of Morphology”, Dorit Ravid discusses a theory-based approach and the usage-based emergentist approach to inflectional learning, methods and factors which influence language acquisition and the acquisition of derivational morphology.

In “Learning and Using Morphology and Morphosyntax in a Second Language”, Laurie Beth Feldman and Judith F. Kroll consider L1/L2 speakers’ performance in the processing of single words/large morphological families, cognate and priming effects, evidence from neuroimaging studies and the processing of morphosyntactic features at sentence level.

Methodology and Resources in Morphology

Daniel Schmidke and Victor Kuperman explore “Psycholinguistic Methods and Tasks in Morphology”, and more specifically the comprehension/production processes in written, spoken and sign language.

Niels O. Schiller discusses “Neurolinguistic Approaches in Morphology” for the processing of complex words in the mental lexicon. Indicatively, reference is made to full-listing, full-parsing and dual-access models, event-related brain potential (ERP) studies, research on the morphological processing in language production --including compounds, newly acquired and existing forms- and the morphological priming effect.

Emmanuel Keuleers, in “Computational Approaches to Morphology”, sketches various models (e.g., memory-based language processing, analogical modelling), studies in which distributional semantics is used for modelling morphology and computational approaches (i.e., Dual Route Cascaded, triangle model) for the reading/recognising of short words.

In “Quantitative Methods in Morphology: Corpora and Other “Big Data” Approaches”, Marco Marelli refers to morphological databases, stemmers, lemmatisers, automatic systems, corpus-based measures, automatic systems, morphological-based systems in distributional semantics and models which see morphology as the result of the form-to-meaning mapping.

Yuni Kim sheds light on the relation between “Morphology and Language Documentation” by looking at issues related to corpus theorisation (e.g., collaborative model, corpus design, ethics), data collection (i.e., elicitation, large data sets) and handling (i.e., data management, guides to language documentation).

The Morphology-Syntax Interface

Jim Wood and Neil Myler refer to verbal (i.e., causatives, applicatives, desideratives) and deverbal morphology (nominalisations, adjectival passives) to explore the relation between “Argument Structure and Morphology”.

In “Parts of Speech, Lexical Categories, and Word Classes in Morphology”, Jaklin Kornfilt refers to the diagnostics which distinguish parts of speech (POS), POS’ traditional categories, major word classes, the theories of Chomsky (1970, 1981), Jackendoff (1977) and Baker (2003) and the lexical categories at the morphology-syntax interface.

Malka Rappaport Hovav explores the relation between “Morphology and Argument Alternations” by looking at causative and dative alternations, their morphological cross-linguistic variation, patterns and treatments.

Eulàlia Bonet discusses the properties of “Clitics and Clitic Clusters in Morphology” (including mesoclisis, simple and special clitics), issues related to special clitics’ positions/treatments clitic order in clitic clusters and its restrictions.

Jan-Wouter Zwart in “Head Movement and Morphological Strength” explores the Rich Agreement Hypothesis (RAH), verb movement patterns mainly in Germanic languages, the Paradigm-Verb raising correlate, Rich Agreement, empirical evidence in favour of/against RAH’s weak/strong interpretation and the correlations between head movement and morphological richness/strength in light of the syntax-morphology relation.

Olaf Koeneman and Hedde Zeijlstra discuss empirical and theoretical issues related to “Morphology and Pro Drop” languages, i.e., the relation between null subjects and rich agreement, radical/partial pro drop languages, pro drop with expletive/generic null subjects, whether a formal or functional treatment best accounts for consistent pro drop structures, what licenses pro drop, radical/partial pro drop treatments.

In “Multi-Word Expressions and Morphology” (MWE), Francesca Masini considers MWE’s formal/functional properties/types/idiomatic status/function, the parts of speech in which they belong, MWE and periphrases, MWEs which contribute to lexical enrichment, word demarcation and competition. Theoretical and typological issues which highlight MWE’ cross-linguistic features are touched upon.

The Morphology-Phonetics/Phonology Interface

Maria Gouskova looks at the relation between “Morphology and Phonotactics” by examining the following topics: phonotactic constraints on morpheme/word boundaries, phonotactic generalisations in morphosyntactic constructions, phonotactic differences between morphemes/word categories, lexical variation, theoretical approaches to the morphology-phonotactics relation (e.g., the Sound Pattern of English, Prosodic Morphology), treatments to morphologically derived environment effects, experimental studies and computational models of the generalisations.

Birgit Alber and Sabine Arndt-Lappe show that as far as “Morphology and Metrical Structure” is concerned, research has focused on metrical organisation, morphologically conditioned metrical alternations, metrical variation’s role on the processing of morphologically complex words and stress alternation in affixes. Reduplication and truncation are evidence for the role prosodic categories play in metrical structure, whereas frequency effects, productivity and semantic compositionality for the relation between stress alternations and the processing of morphologically complex words.

In “Morphology and Tone”, Irina Monich presents a brief note on the typology of morphological tone and the nominal (number, case, gender/class, definiteness) and verbal (person, tense, aspect, mood, transitivity/voice, polarity, clausal type, derivational/category changing) categories in which tonal features are expressed. Tone is employed in morphology in various ways, i.e., in segmental affixes, in affixes containing floating tones, as tonal templates, as lexically specified and as a morphological boundary. Reference is made to the melodic tone H in Bantu to illustrate one of the challenges tonal morphology faces.

In “Phonetic Detail and Gradience in Morphophonological Alternations”, Patrycja Strycharczuk reviews studies which offer conflicting empirical evidence as far as incomplete neutralisation and phonetic reflections of morphological complexity are concerned. She explains that these may be due to methodological reasons or statistical robustness. It is shown how different approaches account for incomplete neutralisation.


Apart from the breadth of the theoretical approaches discussed, the articles in the volume explore the challenges different treatments face. Contributors offer empirical, cross-linguistic evidence which exemplifies and supports the theoretical discussion, thus enabling the reader to get a better grasp of the topic. The richness of the references is also impressive. The contributors successfully manage to guide readers through years of research within a couple of well-written pages. Finally, the coherence and clarity which characterised the articles in the first volume are maintained in this one. Typos: p.852: “are generally the result earlier regular phonology”. p. 855: “CFs (Section 3) and affixoids Section 4). p. 864: “in the escription of grammaticalization processes:. p. 945: Hockett (1955) precedes Hockett (1954). p. 1207: “the morpho phonological bracketing is basic”. p. 1645: “STRESS VARIATION ANWD THE PROCESSING”.


Baker, M. C. (2003). Lexical categories: Verbs, nouns and adjectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bloomfield, L. (1933). Language. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Chomsky, N. (1970). “Remarks on nominalisation”. In R. Jacobs and R. Rosenbaum (Eds.), Readings in English transformational grammar (pp. 184-221). Waltham: Ginn.

Chomsky, N. (1981). Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.

Jackendoff, R. (1977). X’-syntax: A study of phrase structure. Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 2. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Harris, Z. S. (1946). “From morpheme to utterance”. Language 11: 161-183.

Hockett, C. F. (1954). “Two models of grammatical description”. In Readings in linguistics: The development of descriptive linguistics in America since 1925. (Vol. 10, pp. 210-231). Washington: American Council of Learned Societies.

Martinet, A. (1950). “Review of Morphology, by Eugene Nida”. Word 30: 333-384.

Nida, E. (1949). Morphology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Stump, G. (2001). Inflectional morphology: A theory of paradigm structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Alexandra Galani is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Primary Education at the University of Ioannina (Greece). Her main research interests are in morphology, its interfaces and language teaching and learning.

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