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Derivational Morphology
Mihaela Tnase-Dogaru, Fall semester 2014
Course design: Ileana Baciu (2004). English Morphology. Word formation (EUB)
Lecture 5

Lexicalist Approaches to Morphology

1. The X-bar Schema. The Lexicalist Hypothesis

Consider the following phrases

[NP the books about the war]

[VP never eat a hamburger]
[AP quite certain about Mary]
[PP almost in the house]

There seem to be important similarities in the internal structure and behavior of phrases of
different categories
Generalizing over the data and formulating cross-categorial (or, rather, category-neutral) rules
- These should indicate the general principles of phrase structure and should define parameters of
variation regarding the organization of phrasal categories within a language or across languages
= X Theory
The intuitive idea behind X Theory that phrases are built around lexical or functional heads
- Phrases are projections of structures round categories

Head = the nucleus of a phrase (noun for NPs, verb for VPs, Preposition for PPs)
the distribution of the phrase is given by the distribution of the head

The principle of endocentricity

(5) a. Every phrase XP has an Xo head

b. Every head Xo projects to a maximal projection XP

The first projection of some X0 , called X (X-bar), contains all and only subcategorized
constituents, called complements.

Complement = provide information about entities and locations , events, etc, whose existence is implied
by the meaning of the head; they appear in the subcategorization frame and are obligatory

Complements make a phrase complete or saturated


[NP the books about the war]

[VP never eat a hamburger]
[AP quite certain about Mary]
[PP almost in the house]

What about: the, never, quite, almost?

Specifiers = semantically, specifiers help to make the meaning of the head more precise;
syntactically, specifiers mark a phrase boundary

The XP Rule

XP (X) (Specifier) X
X X0 Complements
2. Aronoffs model of word -formation (1976)
Aronoffs model assumes the existence of a separate morphological component (lexicon) which includes:
(a) a list of the atomic and complex words;
(b) a set of WFRs that generate potential words on the pattern of actual words;
(c) a set of obligatory adjustment rules.
2.1. The Form and Function of WFRs
- Aronoff assumes a word-based morphology.
- assumptions that account for the properties of WFRs:
WFRs apply only to words; these words must be existing words. Possible but non-existent words
cannot be the base of a WFR.
WFRs can take as bases only single words; they do not apply to units lower than or higher than
words (i.e. morphemes or phrases)
both the input and output of a WFR must be members of the categories N, V, A, i.e.
open-ended lexical classes.
WFRs are intrinsically ordered;
SO, the typical operation of a WFR is to take an existing word and add an affix to it. The category change
brought about by the application of the WFR is part of the application of the WFR itself.
- the bases of WFRs are elements of the core lexicon which are characterized for their phonological,
morphological syntactic and semantic properties.
- the affix has no independent existence outside the operation of the WFR, which entails: a) the base of
the WFR must be unique and, b) the operation it performs must be unique, i.e. a WFR cannot add a prefix
and a suffix at the same time.
- this is known as the Unitary Base Hypothesis (UBH) = a WFR only operates over a single type of
syntactically or semantically defined base, i.e. a WFR will never operate on two morphologically
different classes of bases.
(11) -able attaches to both nouns ( e.g. fashionable, sizeable) and to verbs (e.g. readable, acceptable) =
homophonous affixes and two distinct WFRs.
- the application of the WFR to the base triggers different changes: phonological, morphological and
syntactic; they are dealt with in the word-formation component by adjustment rules
A) Phonological adjustment rules
- the phonological changes brought about by the operation of a WFR, particularly in terms of the stress
pattern of the newly derived word.

- there are affixes that appear to be sensitive to the stress pattern of the base. The suffix # al, for instance
only attaches to bases that have a stressed vowel followed (optionally) by a consonant (sonorant/anterior):

trial, denial vs. *constructal, *resistal

B) Morphological adjustment rules

- the allomorphy rules that account for the allomorphic variation which is lexically or morphologically
conditioned by certain specified morphemes.
- allomorphy rules explain the alternation -fy /-fic with the nominalization suffix -ation as a case of partial
suppletion, by writing a rule which states that when -ation is added to a base ending in -fy, the latter is
replaced by the -fic allomorph

electrify electrification

C) Syntactic adjustment rules

- changes in the subcategorization frame of the base; the application of the WFRs can affect the
subcategorization frame of the base words in three different ways:

frames are inherited from the base word

frames are deleted from the base word
frames are added from the base word

a) inheritance - destroy-destruction:


The enemy destroyed the city

The enemys destruction of the city

- the subcategorization frame of the verb is inherited by the noun with minor changes due to the nominal
properties of the noun destruction i.e. the subject and object of the verb become noun specifier and
prepositional complement respectively.
b) deletion - the most frequent adjustment triggered by WFRs:


They broke the glass into pieces

The glass is breakable *into pieces
I ate the potato
I overate *the potato


He ran
*He outran
He outran Mary

c) addition

Sample of WFR: RE#Attachment

(a) [X ]V [re# [X ]V ]V


Conditions on the base:

(i) Morphological Conditions: X = Vtransitive (entirely productive)
X = Vintransitive (mainly French loans)
(ii) Semantic condition:
X implies a change of state in the object upon which X applies

(b) Semantic operation:

[re# [X]V ]V = DO AGAIN/ANEW X
c) Phonological operation:
re# is stress sensitive; no change of stress pattern; the prefix is stressed : /`re `punch /
Syntactic Adjustment Rules:
(a) deletion of subcategorization frame of the base:
(i) deletion of sentential complement :
I think that he is innocent
*I rethink that he is innocent
I rethink the problem
(ii) deletion of double object frame:
He wrote a letter to me
He wrote me a letter
*He rewrote me a letter
He rewrote a letter
(iii) deletion of preposition:
He thought about the problem
*He rethought about the problem
He rethought the problem
(b) inherited subcategorization frame:
He adjusted to civilian life
He reajusted to civilian life
They modelled/remodelled the education system.