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Review of  Many Morphologies

Reviewer: Pius Ten Hacken
Book Title: Many Morphologies
Book Author: Paul Boucher
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 13.2826

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Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002 16:50:02 +0100
From: Pius ten Hacken
Subject: Morphology: Review of Boucher (ed.) Many Morphologies

Boucher, Paul, ed. (2002) Many Morphologies, Cascadilla Press,
xvi+267pp, paperback ISBN 1-57473-025-8, $28.95.

Publisher's announcement of the book:

Reviewed by Pius ten Hacken, Universitaet Basel

This book grew out of a research project ''The Structure of the
Lexicon'', funded by the French Ministry of Research, which included a
summer school (1997) and a workshop on morphology (1998). It consists
of nine papers, varying in length between 19 and 36 pages, preceded
by a brief introduction. According to this introduction, by Paul
Boucher and Marc Plenat, the book's title alludes to the variety of
morphological problems and the diversity of formal solutions
proposed. The review will be divided into nine micro-reviews
summarizing and briefly commenting on the individual papers, followed
by some general remarks. In a number of names, diacritics have been
deleted to avoid character transfer problems.

Synopsis and Discussion of the Individual Papers

* In ''The Asymmetry of Morphology'', Anna Maria Di Sciullo presents a
model of morphology claimed to be compatible both with Chomsky's
(1995) Minimalist Program and with Kayne's (1994) theory of
antisymmetry. It is based on morphological trees with two projection
levels for affixes and roots. In this model, morphology and syntax
are different components of grammar, working with similar operations
applied in a different way. The morphological operations of SHIFT and
LINK move elements in morphological trees. The central explanatory
device is the Strict Asymmetry Hypothesis. The model is illustrated
by application to a number of derivational suffixes, verbal
compounds, and complex wh-elements such as ''everywhere''.

COMMENTS: Many readers without detailed knowledge of the author's
earlier work might be put off by the introduction, which
includes 33 references in slightly more than one page. Although she
names her sections with general titles such as ''Derivation'' and
''Compounding'', these actually cover only a tiny selection
of these fields and there is no indication of how (or whether) her
treatment can be generalized.

Moreover, the author takes insufficient care in
her formulation of arguments and in her treatment of the data. An
example of the former is her confusion of ''does not imply that'' and
''implies that not'' in the explanation of asymmetry (p. 3). An example
of the latter is her use of ''She went to the meeting you know about.''
as an example of a ditransitive preposition (p. 12). She also
perpetuates the erratic claim that subjects cannot be included as
non-heads in a verbal compound. This claim, formulated by Roeper &
Siegel (1978) for ''-ed'', ''-er'', and ''-ing'', cannot be generalized.
Allen (1978) gives counterexamples such as ''population growth''. A
recent discussion of the ambiguity of examples such as ''government
promotion'' and ''satellite observation'' can be found in Lapata (2002).
Despite these obvious drawbacks, for specialists who know the
background in the 33 references sufficiently well and are able to
correct the errors in the presentation, the chapter offers some
interesting ideas.

* In ''Middle Transitive Alternations in English: A Generative Lexicon
Approach'', Christian Bassac and Pierrette Bouillon treat the
alternation by which transitive verbs such as ''read'' can occur in
middle constructions such as ''This book reads well''. They adopt the
framework of the generative lexicon as developed by Pustejovsky
(1995) and show how the internal structure of lexical entries can
explain which verbs can occur in middle constructions of this type,
how their meaning is affected, and why a modifier of a particular
type is necessary.

COMMENTS: Adopting the classical structure of presenting a set of
data, introducing a framework, and showing how the data can be
explained in this framework, this well-written article presents a
highly accessible argument for the theory of the generative lexicon.
Although the section introducing the theory itself will be too brief
for anyone not already familiar with the approach, the article will
no doubt whet the appetite to learn more about it.

* In ''Unaccusativity Mismatches and Unaccusativity Diagnostics from
Derivational Morphology'', Bozena Cetnarowska discusses the impact of
morphological tests on the distinction between unaccusative (e.g.
''escape'') and unergative verbs (e.g. ''laugh''). The problem with this
distinction is that diagnostic tests are language-specific and
different tests do not coincide in borderline cases. By looking at
problem cases with morphological tests in Polish and English, the
author shows that these tests, when used with care, are no worse than
syntactic tests. As opposed to the latter, they focus on ''deep''
rather than ''surface'' unaccusativity in Levin & Rappaport's (1995)

COMMENTS: This chapter is more of an overview than an argument for a
particular point. As a consequence of the choice of a classification
question as the main topic, no conclusion in terms of a theory
explaining a set of data can be expected. The resulting tests,
however, are language-specific and cannot be generalized. Although an
attempt is made to justify them on the basis of a theory of grammar,
they are not linked to a theory of classification.

* In ''Many Plurals: Inflection, Informational Additivity, and
Morphological Processes'', Susan Steele argues for a processual view
of morphology on the basis of data from Luiseno. In a morpheme-based
analysis, Luiseno ''um'' is treated as a plural suffix. On closer
inspection, such an analysis cannot be upheld. Instead, a number of
different processes are proposed which change the features and affect
the form of a word without resulting in one-to-one matches between
forms and meanings.

COMMENTS: This article addresses one of the foundational questions in
morphology, whether rules should be formulated as operations on
morphemes or as processes, Hockett's (1954) Item & Arrangement vs.
Item & Process. In the presentation and discussion of Luiseno data, a
large degree of tolerance or knowledge of the literature on this
language seems to be presupposed. Morphological categories are rather
different from the ones familiar from European languages and a reader
looking for any specification of whether we are dealing with nouns or
verbs will be disappointed.

* In ''Gender 'Polarity': Theoretical Aspects of Somali Nominal
Morphology'', Jacqueline Lecarme discusses a case of polarity, where
pluralization of nouns is often said to change gender to the opposite
value. A more precise inspection of the Somali data shows that it is
possible to predict the gender of plural nouns on the basis of the
plural marker and independently of the gender of the base. A similar
analysis applies to Breton. These data are explained in the framework
of Halle & Marantz's (1993) Distributed Morphology. It is proposed
that Somali number is inserted in a different position in the tree
from normal inflectional number.

COMMENTS: The careful presentation of an interesting set of data in
this chapter effectively destroys the theoretically problematic
concept of gender polarity. The second part of the chapter cannot be
understood without familiarity with Distributed Morphology. An
alternative analysis which is not considered at all is that in some
languages nominal number is derivational rather than inflectional,
cf. the argument for Japanese in ten Hacken (1994). It seems that the
inflectional nature of nominal number is simply universally
stipulated here.

* In ''Surface-to-Surface Morphology: When Your Representations Turn
into Constraints'', Luigi Burzio develops an approach to word
formation in the framework of Optimality Theory in which the task
commonly attributed to word formation rules is taken over by
constraints. The central constraint is Output-to-Output Faithfulness
(OO-F), which requires base word and derived word to be as similar as
possible. OO-F is subject to Gradient Attraction (GA). GA is an
organizational force in the lexicon which tends to make similar items
more similar. As a consequence, once OO-F is violated in one respect,
it is easier to violate it in other respects as well. GA is itself
explained by the Representational Entailments Hypothesis, a general
cognitive device governing the strength of expectations in view of

COMMENTS: This is an absolutely fascinating article for anyone
interested in the question of whether analogy can replace rules in
morphology. It is extremely well-written and accessible even with
only basic knowledge of Optimality Theory, because crucial points are
explained more than once from different perspectives. Even for those
who refuse to accept its sweeping conclusion, the article contains
many points of inspiration.

* In ''An Experimental Constructional Database: The MorTAL Project'',
Nabil Hathout, Fiammetta Namer, and Georgette Dal describe the
functioning of two tools used in the construction of a lexicon
database with derivational information for French, MorTAL. One of the
tools, DeCor, is entirely based on statistical corpus analysis, the
other, DeriF, also uses linguistic information. As a case study of
the French suffix ''-able'' shows, DeCor achieves 85% accuracy,
measured against the analyses found by DeriF. DeCor is more robust
and requires less specification work for each affix, but DeriF yields
more reliable results.

COMMENTS: This chapter was written for computational linguists. The
section outlining the position of the work described here in the
context of the general field reads more like an obligatory section of
a research grant application than a real explanation of the
background. The description of the tools is too superficial to give
more than a rather general idea of their functioning. This is not
unusual in computational linguistics, because one does not want to
give away the advantage in the competition for future research
grants. In the evaluation of DeCor and DeriF, DeriF seems to be taken
as a standard of comparison. From a methodological point of view,
this appears a rather unfortunate decision.

* In ''Applications of Computational Morphology'', Beatrice Daille,
Cecile Fabre, and Pascale Sebillot describe a number of computational
systems for the acquisition and use of lexical databases with
morphological information, as well as a number of applications in
which the morphological information in these databases is useful. The
applications include lemmatizing unknown text, recognition of terms,
and document retrieval.

COMMENTS: While the authors claim to review ''[t]he best known
computational systems'', the selection of lexical databases, systems
for lexical knowledge acquisition, and examples of applications is
small and biased towards a French perspective. This bias makes it a
useful supplement for people working in this area with a more
international orientation.

* In ''A Common Basis for Syntax and Morphology: Tri-Level Lexical
Insertion'', Joseph E. Emonds proposes a new model as a basis for a
unified account of syntax and morphology. Following Lieber (1992) he
assumes that morphemes (free stems, bound stems, affixes, and zero
morphs) have lexical entries. Syntax and morphology build a single
tree and use the same notion of headedness. Right-headedness is the
universal default, but it can be overridden by language-specific
rules. These rules, elaborated for English and French, do not exploit
the distinction between syntax and morphology but those between open
and closed projections (only IP, DP, AP, and PP are closed) and
between free and bound elements. Affixes and stems are distinguished
on the basis of their semantic specificity. Derivation and inflection
are distinguished by the level of lexical insertion of the affix.
Inflectional affixes are inserted at Phonetic Form whereas
derivational affixes are inserted either at the start of syntax (if
they are non-productive) or at the end of the transformational cycle,
before spell-out (if they are productive). The effects of these
different levels of insertion are shown for the English suffixes
''-ing'' and ''-ment''.

COMMENTS: This chapter offers a well argued and highly readable
sketch of an intriguing approach to morphology. There may be some
quibbles about details in the presentation, e.g. the structure
[[[development] [of new roads]] into the hills] on p. 256, but on the
whole both the presentation and the theory give an impression of
careful elaboration. As it is presented here, the question remains,
of course, to what extent the approach can be generalized to
phenomena which motivated Anderson (1992) to adopt an Item and
Process model, such as reduplication, ablaut, and suprasegmental
modification. Since this chapter is presented as a brief outline of
the main ideas in Emonds (2000), the reader's interest is attracted
to the discussion of these issues there.

General Discussion

The first general observation about this book which comes to mind is
that the title is entirely appropriate. Each chapter takes a quite
different approach or theory as a basis, not in order to introduce
it, but rather to illustrate how it is used in state-of-the-art
research. The risk taken by the editors is then that few people will
be able to appreciate more than one or two chapters. Avoiding this
imposes an extremely difficult task on the authors. In this
reviewer's opinion, Burzio and Emonds mastered this task to a
remarkable degree. Some of the other contributions constitute an
invitation to the reader to find out more about the theory adopted,
because of the intriguing results. Yet others are less successful, as
argued in more detail above.

The decision to include two chapters on computational morphology in
this volume is difficult to understand. The way questions are asked
and addressed in computational morphology differs fundamentally from
the way they are dealt with in theoretical morphology. It hardly
seems plausible that these chapters will appeal to the readership of
the others. It is also strange that the more general chapter follows
the more specific one.

The readership of this book consists of specialists in generative
morphology who know the major current approaches in quite some detail
and are not afraid to deal with specialized data sets from languages
they do not know. Each chapter has its own bibliography, which is not
surprising in view of the minimal overlap and facilitates the use of
individual chapters in photocopies.


Allen, Margaret Reece (1978), ''Morphological Investigations'',
Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Connecticut.

Anderson, Stephen R. (1992), ''A-Morphous Morphology'', Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Chomsky, Noam (1995), ''The Minimalist Program'', Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.

Emonds, Joseph E. (2000), ''Lexicon and Grammar: The English
Syntacticon'', Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

ten Hacken, Pius (1994), ''Defining Morphology: A Principled Approach
to Determining the Boundaries of Compounding, Derivation, and
Inflection'', Hildesheim: Olms.

Halle, Morris & Marantz, Alec (1993), 'Distributed Morphology and the
Pieces of Inflection', in Hale, Kenneth & Keyser, Samuel J. (eds.),
''The View from Building 20: Essays in Linguistics in Honor of Sylvain
Bromberger'', Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press, p. 111-177.

Hockett, Charles F. (1954), 'Two Models of Grammatical Description',
''Word'' 10:210-231.

Kayne, Richard S. (1994), ''The Antisymmetry of Syntax'', Cambridge
(Mass.): MIT Press.

Lapata, Maria (2002), 'The Disambiguation of Nominalizations',
''Computational Linguistics'' 28:357-388.

Levin, Beth & Rappaport, Malka (1995), ''Unaccusativity: At the Syntax
- Lexical Semantics Interface'', Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.

Lieber, Rochelle (1992), ''Deconstructing Morphology: Word Formation
in Syntactic Theory'', Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pustejovsky, James (1995), ''The Generative Lexicon'', Cambridge
(Mass.): MIT Press.

Roeper, Thomas & Siegel, Muffy (1978), 'A Lexical Transformation for
Verbal Compounds', ''Linguistic Inquiry'' 9:199-260.

Pius ten Hacken is Privatdozent for general linguistics at the
Universitaet Basel. His research specializations include morphology,
computational linguistics, and the philosophy and history of