The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 10/27 - Boer Fu (MIT)

Speaker: Boer Fu (MIT)
Title: When is a compound not a compound? A tone sandhi diagnostic
Time: Wednesday, October 27th, 5pm – 6:30pm

Abstract: Due to the one-to-one mapping between syllables and morphemes in Mandarin Chinese, disyllabic words are usually described as a compound of two morphemes. I present evidence from a phonological process, tone 3 sandhi, to show that not all disyllabic words are learned as compounds by the speaker. The tone 3 sandhi rule takes any disyllabic words with the UR /3-3/and turns it into [2-3] in SR. I argue that learners do not always infer a /3-3/ UR from an [2-3] SR, and that many words listed as /3-3/ in the dictionary are actually stored as /2-3/ by the speaker. In particular, it is words that are not transparently compositional (e.g. animal and plant names, abstract nouns, place names) that are prone to this type of “mis-learning”. I show that a reduplication diagnostic on [2-3] SR items can tell us whether a disyllabic word is a compound or not.