The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 4/13 - Stan Zompì (MIT)

Speaker: Stan Zompì (MIT)
Title: *ABA in multidimensional paradigms
Time: Thursday, April 13th, 5pm – 6:30pm


The last decade and a half has witnessed a lot of research about *ABA universals—generalizations like “If a nominative and the corresponding dative have the same exponent, then the corresponding accusative has that exponent too” (Caha 2009; Smith et al. 2019). Most of the work on these universals has only focused on one ‘paradigm column’ at a time, by checking a given paradigm’s NOM.SG, ACC.SG, and DAT.SG, for example, with no heed to whether any of the exponents under scrutiny would also show up in that paradigm’s NOM.PL, ACC.PL, or DAT.PL. Recent literature, however, has pointed out that inspecting full paradigms is crucial to our understanding of *ABA, especially because some classic accounts that derive *ABA column-internally turn out to also make predictions about what may or may not happen across columns, and those predictions often appear to be wrong. In the domain of case, two proposals have recently been advanced to try and fix the problem: Christopoulos & Zompì’s (2022) and Caha’s (2023). I’ll argue that the former undergenerates (as Caha points out), whereas the latter overgenerates and, in so doing, misses a generalization. The challenge is to develop a theory whose power falls halfway between the two. To this end, I will explore the idea that exponents may both be underspecified and be overspecified with respect to their exponenda, and that each of these departures from a perfect match is penalized without necessarily being fatal—an intuition I will implement optimality-theoretically in terms of violable MAX and DEP constraints. I will argue that this derives the desired generalizations, and discuss some theoretical choice points and the (scant) evidence that might bear on them.