The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 2/18 - Sam Zukoff

Speaker: Sam Zukoff (MIT)
Title: The Mirror Alignment Principle: Morpheme Ordering at the Morphosyntax-Phonology Interface (Part 1: Bantu)
Date: Thursday, February 18
Time: 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Since at least Baker’s (1985) proposal of the “Mirror Principle”, it has been widely recognized that the linear order of morphemes within a morphologically complex word generally correlates with hierarchical syntactic structure (see also Muysken 1981). In morphologically complex words, morphemes which represent the exponents of morphosyntactic terminals that are lower in the syntactic tree generally surface closer to the root than those morphemes which are exponents of higher morphosyntactic terminals. A question that Baker does not directly explore in his original proposal is by what formal means this ordering relation is implemented in the grammar

In this talk, I outline a new proposal for implementing the Mirror Principle, which I refer to as the “Mirror Alignment Principle” (MAP). The MAP is an algorithm which translates c-command relations in the hierarchical (morpho)syntactic structure into ranking relations between Alignment constraints (McCarthy & Prince 1993) in the phonological component:

(1) The Mirror Alignment Principle:
If α c-commands β → Align-α » Align-β

By using ranked, competing Alignment constraints on different morphemes in this way, we can determine the surface order of morphemes through constraint interaction while still having a principled connection to the syntax.

I will demonstrate that this framework can straightforwardly generate Mirror Principle effects in Bantu, where differences in semantic scope between verbal derivational morphemes (Causative, Applicative, Reciprocal, Passive) correlate with differences in linear order. I will also address how the apparent counterevidence to the Mirror Principle posed by the so-called “CARP Template” (Hyman 2003) can be accommodated within the present proposal.