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Title:Morphological haplology in a constraint-based morpho-phonology
Authors:Ingo Plag
Abstract:Morphological haplology in a constraint-based morpho-phonology

Ingo Plag


The paper is published in

Wolfgang Kehrein and Richard Wiese (eds.) 1998. Phonology and Morphology

of the Germanic Languages, 199-215. Tübingen: Niemeyer.


Morphological haplology has been defined as the absence of "an affix or

clitic [...] when the adjacent part of the stem is homophonous to it"

(Stemberger 1981:791), or as the avoidance of adjacent identical morphs

(e.g. Menn/McWhinney 1984). Although haplology is dealt with in a large

number of publications, a satisfactory general account of this

phenomenon is still lacking. Thus, it is often difficult to arrive at

firm generalizations because identity avoidance, though wide-spread in

the world's languages, seems extremely variable not only across

languages, but also within one language.

Part of the problem lies in the conceptualization of the phenomenon

itself. The above-mentioned definitions of haplology indicate that

identity avoidance may affect repeated morphs, morphemes that are only

partially identical, and even non-morphemic material. It is unclear

whether these phenomena should indeed all be subsumed under the label

of haplology. Furthermore, the jury is still out on at least three

other questions, the first being whether haplology can be defined in

universal terms, or only as peculiar to individual morphological

processes. The second question is whether haplology should be accounted

for by rules or by output-oriented restrictions. Finally, it remains to

be shown whether haplology can be regarded as a purely phonological

phenomenon or not.

Starting from earlier constraint-based approaches to haplology (e.g.

Yip 1998) this paper proposes that morphological haplology results from

a family of universal, violable output-oriented constraints on the

repetition of identical phonological elements (OCP (feature), OCP

(segment), OCP (onset), OCP (nucleus), OCP (onset, nucleus)). This

proposal differs from earlier constraint-based models (e.g. Yip 1998)

in important respects. It eliminates constraints that make reference to

morphological instead of phonological structure, i.e. Yip's OCP (affix)

and OCP (stem), and adds subsyllabic constituents to the inventory of

elements to which OCP constraints can refer. This has two main

consequences. First, in this approach, morphological haplology is

exclusively triggered by phonological constraints (in interaction with

other prosodic and morphological constrtaints), which is both

empirically and theoretically preferable. Second, by eliminating OCP

(affix) and OCP (stem) as constraints, I argue against the Repeated

Morph Constraint. It is shown that both the Repeated Morph Constraint

and Stem-End-Haplology are different consequences of the same


In the account I propose, the similarities of haplology phenomena

across and within languages are explained by the universality of the

phonological constraints at work. At the same time, the observable

variability of haplology among different morphological categories in

one language and across languages turns out to be the consequence of

language-specific rankings of the OCP constraints. The interaction of

OCP constraints with other prosodic and morphological constraints can

also explain the apparent variability of haplology among derivatives of

the same morphological category (cf., for example strychnin-ize vs.

femin-ize vs. *feminin-ize).

These points are illustrated with data from English (-ize derivatives),

German (female person nouns in -in) and Dutch (person nouns and

comparatives in -er), for which a unitary account has not yet been

Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1