|Title:||Explaining Morphosyntactic Competition|
|Comment:||49 page postscript file|
|Abstract:||Explaining Morphosyntactic Competition
February 23, 1999
Morphosyntactic markedness theory classically assumes dynamic
competition among the members of a paradigm (Jakobson 1984). In
generative grammar this kind of competition has been viewed as
morphosyntactic blocking: morpholexical forms compete for insertion
into the same syntactic position, and a more specific or featurally
complex form preempts a more general, featurally simple form (Andrews
1982, 1984, 1990; Blevins 1995; Lumsden 1992; Halle and Marantz 1993;
Bonet 1995). Though blocking has been thought to apply only to
structurally local regions of syntax (Poser 1992), in fact
morphological forms can compete with large syntactic constructions, a
property that is captured by modern constraint-based theories of
syntax (Andrews 1990, Blevins 1995, Ackerman and Webelhuth 1998).
These modern, constraint-based theories limit the contents of
competing forms by featural subsumption. An examination of
negation in several English dialects shows that a morphological form
of negation (suffixal -n't, Zwicky and Pullum 1983) is actively
competing with syntactic forms (not, no, nae), but that neither
featural subsumption nor structural size is the determinant of
blocking. In this paper I show how OT can capture both the classical
morphosyntactic blocking effects, and these cases where
syntactic forms block morphological forms and featural subsumption
fails to hold. The data come from several dialects of English,
1a) *I amn't your friend.
b) I amnae your friend.
2a) Amn't I your friend?
b) *Amnae I your friend?
What is most striking about the use of negation in these English dialects is
that the specific properties of the output form depend upon the other surface
forms (both morphological and syntactic) that actively compete with it, and
not on the details of the derivation of its formal structure, as in the
classical generative approach to syntax. The results are attained by letting
surface morphological and syntactic forms express the same kinds of abstract
information, as in the feature-structure representations of syntax.
Optimality Theory, incorporating a feature-logic based theory of the candidate
set, shows that small (and even externally motivated) differences in the
evaluation of surface forms of expression can have visible and unexpected
repercussions in the syntax and semantics of verbal negation and inversion.