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Lacking Integrity: HPSG as a Morphosyntactic Theory

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Kris Cao.

Many linguistic theories assume a distinction between morphology and syntax. However, despite decades of research, no cross-linguistically valid definition of ‘word’ has emerged (Haspelmath, 2010), suggesting that no sharp distinction is justified. Under such a view, the basic units are morphemes, rather than words, but it has been argued this raises problems when analysing phenomena such as zero inflection, syncretism, stem alternations, and extended exponence.

I will first give an introduction to the syntactic framework of HPSG , and then argue that with existing HPSG machinery, a morpheme-based approach can in fact deal with the above issues. To illustrate this, I will consider Slovene nominal declension and Georgian verb agreement, which have both been used to argue against morpheme-based approaches. These concerns can be overcome through the use of a type hierarchy, and the resulting morpheme-based analyses are simpler than the alternatives. Furthermore, I will show how notions from Word-and-Paradigm morphology, such as ‘rule of referral’ and ‘stem space’, can be recast in this framework. By the end of the talk, I hope to demonstrate that using HPSG as a unified morphosyntactic theory is not only feasible, but also yields fruitful insights.

This work was published at the annual HPSG conference this summer:

This talk is part of the NLIP Seminar Series series.

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