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Review of  What is Morphology?

Reviewer: Jonathan White
Book Title: What is Morphology?
Book Author: Mark Aronoff Kirsten Fudeman
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): Jola-Fonyi
Issue Number: 16.1942

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Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005 10:30:34 +0200
From: Jonathan White
Subject: What is Morphology?

AUTHORS: Aronoff, Mark; Fudeman, Kirsten
TITLE: What is Morphology?
SERIES: Fundamentals of Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2005

Jonathan White, Högskolan Dalarna, Falun, Sweden


This book aims to introduce students to morphological analysis who
already have basic knowledge of Syntax, Semantics, Phonetics and
Phonology. The focus is on important analytical issues that need to be
treated by any framework. After going through the book, students will
be able to appreciate what a good morphological analysis involves,
and what theories of morphology should cover. A particular feature of
the book is that the authors concentrate on giving the entire
morphological system of a language spoken in Senegal, Kujamaat
Joola. Sections on this language come at the end of each chapter,
and relate to the discussion in the text.

Chapter 1: Thinking about Morphology and Morphological Analysis
The first chapter covers basic terminology like morpheme, morph and
the different types of affixes. The fact that speakers can generate
novel words by adding morphemes is presented. The authors then
look at some basic morphological facts that will be dealt with later on,
and differences between languages, such as that some languages
mark nouns for plural using an ending while others do not. Basic
theoretical ideas like the one that morphology is seen as a system and
as a separate component of grammar are also discussed. Finally they
cover some basic questions about morphological analysis like
allomorphy, and the fact that words cannot always be divided clearly
into separate morphemes, as in ablaut past tenses like 'ran' and zero
plurals like 'sheep'. The Kunjamaat Joola language is introduced as

Chapter 2: Words and Lexemes. This chapter starts with the ways in
which the notion of word can be defined. Words as syntactic or
phonological objects are covered, as well as tests like the fact that
words are not separable. The difference between content and
function words is discussed, and this is extended to affixes by
discussing derivational and inflectional affixes. Two approaches to
analysis are introduced: Item-and-Arrangement and Item-and-Process,
including problematic cases like conversion which can be marked by a
stress shift. The nature of the lexicon is covered: either as a list of all
possible morphemes, or as a list of irregularities. Finally, Kunjamaat
Joola noun classes are discussed.

Chapter 3: Morphology and Phonology. Chapter 3 begins with a
discussion of allomorphy, and specifically phonological processes like
the assimilation that occurs in the pronunciation of the English past
ending '-ed'. Two major theories concerning the link between
morphology and phonology are introduced: Prosodic Morphology and
Lexical Morphology. Next, linguistic exaptation is covered, that is the
process whereby morphemes that lose their semantic content as a
result of language change are reanalysed -- this happened in English
with the vowel changing processes in verbs which originally encoded
aspect but changed to encode tense. Finally the morphophonology of
secret languages like Pig Latin is dealt with, and that of Kunjamaat

Chapter 4: Derivation and the Lexicon. The question that is taken up
in the fourth chapter is whether the result of derivational morphology
is stored in the lexicon or not. This is discussed by looking at
compounds and affixation. The fact that speakers can actively
generate new word-forms suggests that not all derivational forms are
stored. Next, other derivational processes like blending, folk
etymology and back-formation are discussed. The hierarchical
structure of words is dealt with. Finally, derivational morphology in
Kunjamaat Joola is introduced.

Chapter 5: Derivation and Semantics. The fifth chapter deals with the
fact that morphemes may be associated with more than one meaning.
A few examples of affixes that have more than one meaning are
discussed, such as zero-derived verbs and '-er' agentive nouns. The
chapter ends with a discussion of derivation and verbs in Kunjamaat

Chapter 6: Inflection. Chapter 6 begins with a discussion of what
inflection is. The fact the affixes can realise more than one feature is
covered, as well as the link between inflection and syntax in
government/agreement relations. Then inflectional features in
languages are presented. Next, the difference between inflection and
derivation is discussed. Various inflectional allomorphs are presented,
and finally morphological typologies. Agreement in Kunjamaat Joola is
discussed at the end.

Chapter 7: Morphology and Syntax. This chapter starts with a
discussion of differences in inflection, such as how much inflection
languages have, and the different agreement features that are
available in languages. The remainder of the chapter deals with
grammatical function changing morphology, such as the passive and
antipassive, and incorporation. Kanjamaat Joola verb morphology and
syntax are presented.

Chapter 8: Morphological Productivity. The final chapter discusses
what productivity is, the extent to which elements can be productive,
and constraints on productivity. The effect of salience on productivity
and ways of testing for productivity are covered.


Overall I thought the authors have a unique approach to the teaching
of morphology. The presentation of the issues was good, and I feel
that its approach of concentrating on general problems of analysis is
particularly interesting. A wide range of problems and theories have
been covered. The exercise sets in the text and at the end of the
chapters are good complements to the presentation. Students would
certainly get a general picture of what morphological analysis is about
from going through this material.

I do have a question, though, about the presentation of the theories.
Only a few examples have been gone through for each one, and they
are different in each case. It would have been nice, in my opinion, to
show how the problems have been solved in various theories by
giving a more complete analysis of some language under each of the
approaches described, presenting advantages and disadvantages.
This is maybe something that could be included in later editions as
additional exercises.

However, I feel that this book is an important textbook on morphology.
It can serve as a bridge between books like Katamba (2005) and more
theoretical works like Spencer (1991). The questions I have raised
about the presentation of the theory can easily be solved by using this
book together with Katamba (1993).


Katamba, F. (1993) Morphology. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Katamba, F. (2005) English Words: Structure, History, Usage (second
edition). London: Routledge.

Spencer, A. (1991) Morphological Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.


The reviewer's research interests include phrase structure, syntax
and semantics of adverbials, interfaces between syntax and semantics
and between syntax and morphology.

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Pages: 280
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