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Re: THEORY: Morphomes (was Re: Chicken and egg; sound and form)

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Friday, May 19, 2006, 22:36
Okay. What follows is the reply I tried sending that apparently didn't make it.

On 5/18/06, David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...> wrote:
> Dirk wrote: > << > How does your definition of morphome differ from that of "morph" from > the American Structuralist tradition? > >> > > Perhaps it doesn't. :) My definition comes from the way it's > generally been used by Farrell Ackerman down here at UCSD, > so you can blame him. ~:D
> Dirk: > << > This intermediate level is the morphomic level, > and elements of this level are morphomes. The morphome is bound to > neither a constant phonological realiziation nor to a constant > semantic or grammatical function. > >>
> By this definition, though, /-s/ should be a morphome, since it > doesn't have a constant form ([s], [z] and [@z] [unless one > analyzes it as such]), and also doesn't have a constant meaning > (plural, genitive, 3rd person singular present tense agreement...).
No. The realizations of the plural, possessive, and the 3sPres do not covary. Note that for the participle example, there is absolute covariance; that is, the passive never uses a different form from the perfective in any verb of English. Take the lexeme MAN; it can be used as a noun or as a verb. As a noun, its plural realization is _men_, not _*mans_. As a verb, its 3sPres is _mans_ (e.g. The first mate mans the helm.), and never _*men_ (e.g. *The first mate men the helm.). The possessive is similar in its realization to the 3sPres, but it is realized sometimes as a part of the lexeme MAN, (the man's coat) and sometimes as part of another lexeme which is part of the NP headed by MAN (the man from U.N.C.L.E.'s coat). So the different functions have different realizations, and these realizations do not covary. So they belong to different morphomes.
> On the other hand, does "morph" cover all the things I was > talking about? For example, the general /-l=/ ending. It doesn't > seem to me like something I'd want to call either a morph or > a suffix (and certainly not a morpheme, as it has no identifiable > meaning), which is why I always called it a morphome.
*I* wouldn't call these morphomes. The term "formative" doesn't seem to be taken (at least it doesn't seem to have a standard definition), so that might be a good term. I've used the term "termination" to talk about these things in a recent paper about English adjective inflection, but that would be restricted to things at the ends of words, and not to more "exotic" structures such as CV skeletons, etc.
> (Huh. The SIL Glossary definition of "morph" is dependent > upon the notion of a "morpheme". That's not helpful...)
Actually it can be. If you subscribe to a more traditional theory of word structure, there is a useful distinction to be made between morpheme and morph. The morpheme is the consistent pairing of form and meaning; it is an abstract notion. The phonetic realization of a morpheme is a morph (or allomorph if there is more than one of them; e.g., the English plural). Dirk