LINGUIST List 6.309

Tue 28 Feb 1995

Sum: Obligatory affixes

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  1. , obligatory affixes: summary

Message 1: obligatory affixes: summary

Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 14:48 -05obligatory affixes: summary
From: <>
Subject: obligatory affixes: summary

Several weeks ago I asked how the traditional notion of obligatory affixes
was recast in the theory of realizational morphology. The responce was not
exactly overwhelming, but I wish to thank Greg Stump (,
Don Ringe (, R. Beard
(, and Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy
( for helpful responses. A few responses
(slightly edited):

Greg Stump:
In Paradigm Function theory, a language's inventory of morphosyntactic
features is assumed to determine--for any major syntactic category X--a
paradigm schema: a set of cells each of which is associated with a
complete and fully specified set of morphosyntactic feature specifications
appropriate to category X. In Latin, for example, the features of case
(i.e. nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative), number
(singular, plural), and gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) determine a
paradigm schema for adjectives which consists of thirty cells, one for each
of the case/number/gender combinations for which adjectives may be
inflected. An adjective's paradigm is then viewed as the inventory of
inflected forms assigned to these cells. For any given cell c in the
adjectival paradigm schema, there is a corresponding paradigm function
which applies to an adjectival lexeme L to yield the inflected form of L
assigned to c. Paradigm functions are defined in terms of more specific
morphological rules, including rules of exponence and rules of referral;
two or more of these may come into competition in the evaluation of a given
paradigm function, in which case the narrower rule overrides the more

How, then, is the notion of obligatory affixes recast in this theory?
Notice first that the architecture of the theory guarantees that every
inflected word w of category X will be associated with a complete and fully
specified set of morphosyntactic feature specifications appropriate to X,
and that it is this set of specifications that drives the inflection of w.
In other words, it is the morphology, not (pace Anderson) the syntax, that
`ensures that any given word has all the features required by the affixes
in question'. (Naturally, I assume that a lexeme's invariant feature
specifications--e.g. a noun's gender--are simply supplied by its lexical
entry.) Second, if a particular affix position must be filled, then that
position can be assumed to be associated with a set of rules of affixal
exponence the least narrow of which functions as the default for that

[I have some questions about how that works where the choice of one affix
seems to require the presence of morphosyntactic features which are
otherwise absent, but it may be that all such examples could be reanalyzed.
It would be unfair of me to say more until I've had a chance to correspond
with Greg.-- MM]

[Some references:]
`A paradigm-based theory of morphosemantic mismatches', _Language_ 67
(1991), 675-725.

`On the theoretical status of position class restrictions on inflectional
affixes', in _Yearbook of Morphology 1991_, ed. by Geert Booij and Jaap van
Marle, 211-241. (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1992).

`Position classes and morphological theory', in _Yearbook of Morphology
1992_, ed. by Geert Booij and Jaap van Marle, 129-180. (Dordrecht: Kluwer,

`On rules of referral', _Language_ 69 (1993), 449-479.

`The uniformity of head marking in inflectional morphology', to appear in
_Yearbook of Morphology 1994_, ed. by Geert Booij and Jaap van Marle.
(Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1995).

Don Ringe suggested consulting the MIT dissertation of R. Rolf Noyer,
"Features, positions, and affixes in autonomous morphological structure"
(MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy,
Room 20D-219, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139; email address:; cost $12 plus $2 S/H in US, $3 outside US). For
background reading on Noyer's dissertation, he recommends the paper by
Halle & Marantz in the festschrift for Sylvain Bromberger (called *The View
from Building 20*).

R. Beard mentioned a book (of his, I believe) "Lexeme-Morpheme Base
Morphology" published by SUNY Press, "hopefully, in June". His theory
assumes the complex IP functional categories of current P&P for Tense,
Aspect, Mood, etc.; there also morpholexical features (which I assume to be
things like gender).
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