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Review of  Understanding Morphology

Reviewer: Alexandra Galani
Book Title: Understanding Morphology
Book Author: Martin Haspelmath
Publisher: Hodder Education
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 13.3127

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This textbook is an introduction to morphology. It is not written within any particular theoretical framework. It aims to provide an introductory guide to unfamiliar with the morphological concepts students. It offers a general discussion of the fundamental
morphological notions and theoretical issues. It further presents a wide range of morphological patterns in a variety of languages. The general structure of the book followed throughout the chapters, is the following: each of the issues which are discussed, and the points which are made, are exemplified in a clear and coherent way. Each chapter
concludes with a summary of the main points which were raised, and it is
followed by a set of references for further reading and exercises. The
book is divided into twelve chapters covering not only a great range of
purely morphological issues but also the interfaces between morphology
and syntax/phonology. Abbreviations (pp. xii-xiii), references
(pp.253-264), a glossary of the technical terms (pp.265-276), language
(pp.277-282) and subject (pp.283-290) indexes are also available.

Chapter 1: Introduction
The first chapter offers a general discussion on what morphology is and
how morphology may look like in different languages focussing on
constituents. It further explores the main notions around the goals of a
morphological research and briefly refers to the architecture of
grammar. This chapter concludes with a short guide to this book. The
exercises focus on the identification of constituents and
morphologically complex words. In addition students are asked to discuss
formal and semantic differences between pairs of words. Some of the
keywords include: analytic, synthetic, isolating, polysynthetic
morphology, Universal Grammar.

Chapter 2: Basic concepts
The second chapter introduces the fundamental concepts surrounding
morphology: lexemes, word-form, paradigm, citation form, word family,
inflection, derivation, compounding, compound morphemes, word formation,
morphemes, affixes (suffixes, prefixes, infixes, circumfixes), bases,
roots (bound roots), diachronic, synchronic morphology,
base-modification (palatalisation, voicing, lengthening, shortening,
fronting, tonal change), transfixation, reduplication, subtraction,
acronyms, alphabetisms, clippings, blends), allomorphs (phonological,
suppletive), suppletion (strong, weak), conditioning (phonological,
morphological, lexical), cumulative and zero expressions. The author
also provides notes on morpheme-by-morpheme glosses. The students are
invited to explore the phonological conditions for allomorphs, identify
operations under which morphological patterns are derived, and work on
suppletion patterns.

Chapter 3: Lexicon and rules
The author discusses the lexicon and its rules in the third chapter. He
draws the attention on productivity and further presents and contrasts
the morpheme-based model to the word-based model. Finally he brings
morphological change (pattern loss, coalescence, analogical change,
reanalysis) into attention. The exercises shed light on the formulation
of morphological rules within the word-base model and analogical

Chapter 4: Inflection and derivation
Chapter 4 explores inflectional and derivational morphology and their
properties. Inflectional categories (number, case, tense, aspect, mood,
voice, dependent verb forms, participles, infinitives, converbs,
masdars), derivational meanings (derived nouns, verbs, adjectives), the
dichotomy, the continuum and the tripartition approaches are discussed.
The features of denominal, deadjectival verbs as well as a
two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional paradigm of a set
of affixes are parts of the exercise sets.

Chapter 5: Morphological trees
The hierarchical structure of compounds is explored in this chapter. The
notions of head, hyponym, endocentric, exocentric, coordinate and
appositional compounds, and feature percolation are introduced. The
exercises invite the students to identify the type of compounds in
different languages and draw constituent structure trees of words.

Chapter 6: Productivity
The author sheds light on productivity in chapter 6. He first draws the
line between possible, actual and occasional words before he moves on to
the distinction between productivity, creativity and analogy. He
explores some phonological (repetition of identical features), semantic,
pragmatic, morphological and semantic restrictions, vocabulary borrowing
as well as synonymy blocking. He finally moves on to ways of measuring
productivity (numbers of actual and possible words and neologisms) and
the linguistic competence around productivity. The exercises focus on
the restrictions of productivity.

Chapter 7: Inflectional paradigms
Inflectional paradigms are discussed extensively in chapter 7. The
different types of inflectional classes (declensions, conjugations,
semantic properties, gender, global) are first presented. The author
further engages on the description of global inflectional classes
(paradigm rules, diacritic features, class shifts) and inheritance
hierarchies (rule schemas, microclass, macroclass, mismatches). The role
of stems in inflection, the productivity of the inflectional classes
(dual processing model versus single processing model), syncretism
(systematic versus accidental inflectional homonymy, polyfunctionality
versus vagueness, natural syncretism, rules of referral), defectiveness,
deponency and periphrasis are also explored in detail. Students are
invited to explore patterns of productivity of given inflectional
classes, patterns of systematic homonymy and set up an inheritance

Chapter 8: Words and phrases
The difficulties of dividing texts into word-forms are presented in
chapter 8. Clitics versus affixes, free versus bound forms, compounds
versus phrases and the Lexical Integrity Principle are compared and
presented in detail in order to exemplify these difficulties. The
exercises mainly focus on the distinction between clitics and affixes.

Chapter 9: Word-based rules
The aim of chapter 9 is to provide evidence for the word-based model
(paradigmatic approach). The author explains that subtraction,
back-formation and cross-formation cannot be accounted for within the
morpheme-based model (syntagmatic approach). Further evidence in favour
of the paradigmatic model comes from output constraints, triangular
relationships and bracketing paradoxes. He finally concludes that in
line with this evidence the concept of morpheme may be dispensed,
although he highlights some of the arguments against such position. The
exercises further invite the students to apply the word-based model to
sets of data.

Chapter 10: Morphophonology
The interface between morphology and phonology is explored in chapter
10. The attention is drawn onto the differences between automatic
(phonetic motivation, optionality, application across word-boundaries)
and morphophonological alternations (loss of relation to phonetics,
obligatory, application within word-limits). Three types of
morphophonological alternations are explored: relic, common and
productive. In addition the diachronic change of automatic alternations
to morphophonological -but not the other way round- is further
illustrated. Finally the distinction between neutral and integrated
affixes is further briefly discussed. The exercises focus on the
distinction of and the explanation between automatic and morphological

Chapter 11: Morphology and valence
The relation between valence and morphology is discussed in chapter 11:
valence changing operations (passive, reflexive, anticausative,
resultative, antipassive, causative, applicative), types of compounding
(incorporated VV compounds, deverbal derivative), transpositional
derivation (action, agent nouns). The final point which is made, relates
to transpositional inflection and the differentiation between a word's
lexeme word-class and word-form class.

Chapter 12: Frequency effects in morphology
Frequency effects and the ways they affect morphological patterns are
explored in the final chapter of the book. Asymmetries as far as
inflectional categories (frequent versus rare categories, frequency
versus shortness, frequency versus differentiation) are concerned,
analogical levelling, frequency versus irregularity and blocking versus
frequency are the issues which are looked at in some detail.

As a whole the book is well-organised, coherent and user-friendly. The
author covers a great range of morphological concepts and issues and
offers a rich exemplification (cross-linguistically) on each topic. He
frequently offers coherent definitions of morphological terms. The
chapters are generally well-organised and equally presented, although
particular attention has been paid on chapters 7 (on the inflectional
paradigms) and 11 (the relation between morphology and valence).
Cross-references are well managed. The conclusive notes of each chapter
provide a useful and clear summary of the most fundamental points which
were raised. Nonetheless the discussion in each chapter does not
necessarily follow from the one immediately preceding it (previous
chapter). The references on further reading are not only appropriate but
also absolutely necessary. The glossary of the technical terms is also
extremely useful. In addition the appendix on morpheme-to-morpheme
glosses which is omitted in most of the introductory books, is of
extreme importance.

Nonetheless there is a number of points I would like to draw attention

- Although this book is not written within any particular theoretical
framework, the author strongly favours the morphological approach (the
word-based model, as he calls it) to word formation, as it can be
clearly seen in chapter 9 and even in the exercises in chapter 3.

- As we previously said, the author discusses a variety of issues: the
basic notions of morphology, allomorphy, valency, inflectional
paradigms, clitics, compounding, bracketing mismatches and many more.
Nonetheless this purely ''empirical'' - non theoretical- approach he
adopts, does not challenge the students in any theoretical way. In the
exercise sets they are asked to apply the points raised in the relevant
chapter but he does not take them to make a step further. There are even
cases (pp.236) where the students are asked to ''formulate an analogous
rule to the one previously explored in (11.43) for adjectives such as
'supportive of'''. The discussion lacks any literature references and
these are given only when we reach the section on further reading. This
also forces the book to lack any clear, strong oppositions between the
different theoretical approaches which have been formulated in the
literature: for example, Roeper and Siegel (1978), Selkirk (1982),
Lieber (1983), Di Sciullo and Williamss (1987), Fabb (1984), Sproat
(1985), Roeper (1987) on compounding.

- Not all the morphological terms are included in the glossary: segment,
diacritic features, idiomatic, grid, dependent are some of the terms
which are missing. If the basis of the entries was indicated, these
inadequacies could have been avoided. Moreover as far as the glossary is
concerned, the section numbers in which the entries can be found, is not
always provided for each one of them.

- Page 6: example (1.6). INDIC is not included in the abbreviations

- Page 33: a misprint ''Affixes and stems that ... expresed''.

- Page 63: ''Some languages such as Vietnamese and Igbo...''. Igbo is
missing from the language index.

- Page 67: The author presents types of agreement relations and refers
to terms such as adpositions, possessor NP, complement NP. Nonetheless I
suspect that not all students will be familiar with all these terms.
Consequently the discussion could have been enriched.

- Page 125: The author uses some Modern Greek examples to refer to
inheritance hierarchies and suggests that the stress is ignored for
simplification purposes. Although the stress pattern is not relevant to
the point he wants to make, the examples ''n`omos'' (law) and ''p`oli''
(town) he is using, as they stand (unstressed) can be easily mistaken
for ''nom`os'' (prefecture) and ''pol`i'' (a lot) respectively. Moreover on
the Modern Greek examples again, we need to be explicit on the
phonological transcription we adopt: the author transcribes the word
''t`ehni'' (art) as ''t`exni''. If we follow that we would probably
interpret ''h'' as ''ks''. The same is also noticed with
''erhome-1SG.PRESENT.ACTIVE'' on page 143 (the author transcribes it as
''erhome''). Additionally the most regular form of the singular genitive
of ''p`oli'' is ''p`olis'' and not ''p`oleos''. The second form belongs to
Katharevusa. Finally if we compare ''imeres.NOM.SG'' (day) to
''poles.NOM.SG'', the second form is ungrammatical: it should have been

- Page 221: ''a compound type that is not found in European V-V compounding''. V-V compounds also appear in Modern
Greek (Galani in progress):
An`avo ke sv`ino à anavosv`ino
turn on and turn off turn on and off

I believe that this book can be used as an introductory one to word
formation to undergraduate students with no morphological background. It
presents a diversity of issues which, nonetheless, need to be considered
within a specific theoretical perspective and context.

Di Sciullo, A.-M. and Williams, E. (1987) On the definition of word.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fabb, N. (1984) Syntactic affixation. PhD dissertation, MIT.

Galani, A. (in progress). The morphosyntax of tense and aspect in Modern
Greek. PhD dissertation, The University of York.

Lieber, R. (1983) Argument linking and compounding in English.
Linguistic Inquiry 14:251:286.

Roeper, T. (1987). Implicit arguments and the head-complement relation.
Linguistic Inquiry 18:267-310.

Roeper, T. and Siegel, D. (1978) A lexical transformation for verbal
compounds. Linguistic Inquiry 9:199-260.

Selkirk, E. (1982) The syntax of words. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Sproat, R. (1985) On deriving the lexicon. PhD dissertation, MIT.
Alexandra Galani is a PhD student at the Department of Language and
Linguistic Science at the University of York, UK. She is currently working on the morphosyntax of tense and aspect in Modern Greek within the theoretical framework of Distributed Morphology.

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