The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 4/11 - Canaan Breiss (MIT)

Speaker: Canaan Breiss (MIT)
Title: When bases compete: experimental and computational studies of Lexical Conservatism
Time: Monday, April 11th, 5pm – 6:30pm

Abstract: (This is a continuation of the presentation given on 4/4)

In this talk I examine the interaction of the phonological grammar and the lexicon through the lens of Lexical Conservatism (Steriade, 1997). This is a theory that addresses how the distribution of bases (existing stem allomorphs in a morphological paradigm) influence the way those paradigms accommodate novel members. The idea is that a phonological alternation only applies to novel words if there is an existing base form present elsewhere in the paradigm that offers the needed phonological material. Thus compénsable, for “able to be compensated”, undergoes stress shift (that is, *cómpensable) because the existing word compénsatory contains the compéns- allomorph. In contrast, *inúndable, for “able to be inundated” is judged worse than ínundable, since there is no existing base that can provide the stressed vowel (there is no form in inúd-). Using experimental data from English and Mexican Spanish, I demonstrate that this dependency between paradigm structure and phonological process application generalizes to entirely novel words in a probabilistic manner. Further, contrary to previous assumptions, I find that all stem allomorphs in a paradigm play a role in determining the form of the novel word, rather than only those that could reduce the markedness of the novel form (per Steriade (1997), Steriade & Stanton (2020)). I propose a novel grammatical model where allomorphs in the lexicon exert analogical pressures on novel words, which are cross-cut by phonological markedness constraints.