The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Course announcement: 24.965 Morphology

24.965 Morphology
Instructors: Adam Albright and David Pesetsky
Meetings: Monday 2-5pm, 32-D461
Web site (to be populated shortly): http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa10/24.965

Where does morphological structure come from, and why is it realized the way it is? What (if anything) distinguishes word structure from sentence structure? Could it be claimed that “morphology is just a rule of syntax” (filtered through some phonological constraints)? Why do theories of morphology so often posit mechanisms that go beyond what appears necessary in theories of sentence structure? (That is, why do they so often answer “no” to the previous question?)

Attempting to answer these questions leads us into some of the central problems that analyses of morphological systems have grappled with:

  1. To the extent that morphological structure is predictable from syntactic structure, how? [Topics include: the Mirror Principle and scope-based ordering, in Athapaskan and beyond; nanosyntax]
  2. To the extent that morphological structure is constrained in a manner that does not directly follow from obvious facts about sentence syntax, what accounts for these effects? [Topics include: templates; phonologically motivated ordering; level ordering effects, the debate over phases and word-structure, complexity-based ordering]
  3. How do structurally simpler and more complex forms interact? [Topics include: blocking effects (syntax/morphology interactions, word/word interactions, phonologically driven interactions)]
  4. What accounts for complex relations between feature-specifications and their exponents? [Topics include: rules of referral, syncretism, fusion, fission, impoverishment, phonological markedness effects; inflection classes]
  5. What accounts for mismatches among phonologically, semantically and purely morphologically motivated word-structures [Topic: bracketing paradoxes]

The big question underlying the course will be: is there a distinct morphological grammar, or can morphological phenomena all be understood as arising from the interaction of syntax and phonology?

Requirements: three in-class presentations, short paper based on one of them