Student grant and fellowship awards

Morphology group members have been racking up grants and fellowships this month!

Noah Diewald was awarded a Jacobs Research Fund grant and also a grant from the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research for his dissertation work on Wao Terero (Ecuador) classifiers systems. He also received a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship from the University of Wisconsin for study of Kichwa (Ecuador).

Connor Rouillier was awarded a Summer Graduate Research Award from the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at OSU. He will be mentored by Nikole Patson on his project Delimiting the Boundary between Object File Representation and Ensemble Representation of Plural Objects and Its Interaction with Morphological Form, part of his larger project on individuation as a morphosemantic properties of dialectal Arabic nouns and verbs.

Kyle Maycock defends B.A. thesis

Congratulations to Kyle Maycock, who successfully defended his B.A. thesis, A Formal Analysis of Inflectional Marking in the Albanian Noun Phrase! It is exciting stuff that he hopes to present at the upcoming American International Morphology Meeting.

Thesis abstract: The Albanian noun phrase marks four morphosyntactic properties: number, gender, case, and definiteness. Every lexical word in the phrase mark number and gender, but only the first lexical word in the phrase—either a noun or an adjective—marks case and definiteness. Number and gender are straightforwardly morphological, but the placement of case and definiteness is dependent upon the syntax. In this way, this exponent is a clitic. The Albanian clitic is especially informative about the morphology-syntax interface because of its “special” (Zwicky 1977) placement after the first lexical word, or second position (2P), and its cumulative exponence. There are many models of 2P clitic placement that treat 2P clitics as phrasal affixes, notably Halpern (1995) and Anderson (2005), but the Albanian clitic’s cumulative exponence poses a problem for these models due to its noncanonical nature. In this thesis, I develop an analysis of the clitic using Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (Pollard and Sag 1994) that accounts for the clitic as edge inflection, rather than treating it as phrasal affixation. The clitic’s cumulative exponence results in two paradigms for lexemes depending on their location within the phrase; when the word is in first position, it marks a larger set of properties than when it is in subsequent positions. This poses a problem to morphology, as it suggests morphology is privy to syntactic placement. In this thesis, I develop an analysis using Paradigm Function Morphology that allows morphology to remain blind to phrasal position.

Grace LeFevre defends B.A. thesis

Congratulations to Grace LeFevre, who successfully defended her honors B.A. thesis, Quantifying Paradigm Shape in Spanish Verbs! The thesis was co-advised by Micha Elsner and Andrea Sims. A paper based on the thesis has already been published in the 4th Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics.

Abstract: This thesis computationally models “paradigm shape,” a type of morphological structure that I define by the implicative relations holding among the forms in an inflectional system. Since implicative structure binds the forms in an inflectional system together (Wurzel, 1989), paradigm shape reflects the predictable ways that allomorphs occur in parallel paradigm cells across inflection classes in some languages. Maiden (2005)’s analysis of how certain Romance verbs changed over time in order to conform to existing paradigm shapes highlights the significance of this structure as a historical and cognitive organizing principle. However, paradigm shape has not been computationally formalized in a gradient or replicable way. Using information-theoretic entropy as defined by Shannon (1948), I develop a method to quantify paradigm shape and I apply it to Spanish verbs as a test case. The method bridges the gap between formal work on the organization of the stem space (e.g. Maiden, 2005; Boye and Cabredo Hofherr, 2006) and computational work on quantifying predictability in inflectional systems (e.g. Ackerman and Malouf, 2013; Stump and Finkel, 2015). In doing so, it jointly models the distributions of stems and affixes to compute sets of values that characterize the shapes of Spanish verb classes. Comparison of these values across classes captures partial parallelism between them, enabling identification of both allomorphic and distributional class structures (Baerman et al., 2017). These results with Spanish verbs highlight that my method provides a computational means of capturing multiple aspects of inflection class structure in a way that is replicable and extendable to other languages. Potential directions for future work include testing the limits of the method’s usefulness on known morphologically difficult systems and applying the method to other Romance languages at various stages of historical development.


We’re excited to announce the 5th American International Morphology Meeting, which will be hosted virtually by OSU Linguistics, August 26th-29th. Check out the details on the conference website.

Society for Computation in Linguistics paper

Grace LeFevre, Micha Elsner and Andrea Sims had their paper “Formalizing Inflectional Paradigm Shape with Information Theory” published in the Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics, vol. 4. The paper is based on Grace’s B.A. thesis work. She did really impressive work and we are happy to see it make it out into the world!

Abstract: “Paradigm shape,” our term for the morphological structure formed by implicative relations between inflected forms, has not beenformally quantified in a gradient manner. We develop a method to formalize paradigm shape by modeling the joint effect of stem alternations and affixes. Applied to Spanish verbs,our model successfully captures aspects of both allomorphic and distributional classes.These results are replicable and extendable to other languages.

Paper on Balkan verbal complex published

Andrea Sims and Brian Joseph’s paper ‘Morphology versus syntax in the Balkan verbal complex‘ has just been published in the volume Balkan syntax and (universal) principles of grammar, edited by Iliana Krapova and Brian Joseph.

Paper Abstract: Various Balkan languages have a string of material called here the “verbal complex”, in which a verb occurs with various markers for tense, modality, negation, and argument structure. We examine here this verbal complex with regard to its status as a syntactic element or a morphological element. First, we carefully outline the theoretical basis for determining the status of a given entity and we then argue that the verbal complexes display different degrees of morphologization in the different languages. Albanian and Greek show the highest degree of morphologization of the verbal complex, with Macedonian close to them in this regard. Bulgarian shows a lesser degree of morphologization than Macedonian, making for an interesting split within East South Slavic, and Serbian shows an even lesser degree. We argue further that certain aspects of the verbal complex, especially in the languages with the greatest morphologization, represent contact-related convergence, and draw from this a general claim about the role of surface structure in language contact.