Allomorphy, the interface and the phonological index

By Noam Faust



In Russian, the nominative singular form of the word ‘city’ is [górət], but the nominative plural form is [gəradá]. The same information, namely ‘city’, is thus realized in two different ways, stressed [górət] and unstressed [gərad-] ([-a] denotes plurality). This state-of-affairs is called “allomorphy”. It is encountered in most if not all languages and comes in many flavors. In this course, we will investigate this phenomenon and ask what it can tell us about the architecture of grammar, especially at the interface between word-formation (syntactic or not) and phonology. We will ask, for instance, whether phonological allomorph-selection is performed by the same module that is responsible for phonological computation, as proposed by studies in Optimality theory, and if not, how such allomorphies can be accounted for. Similarly, it has been proposed that factors other than phonological ones, such as paradigm uniformity, may be involved in the optimization process, and may even interact with phonological considerations; we will examine and seek an alternative to this approach too.

By stripping the proposals from their specific formalizations, we will try to clarify what the real differences are between them, and explore their predictions. It will be claimed that the notion of a phonological index is necessary for the understanding of morphology. Similarly, we will learn about the distinction between of weak and strong suppletion. These have been claimed to be cognitively identical (Paster 2015); we will encouter positive evidence to the contrary.



Faust, Noam. 2016. Weak radicals, weak suppletion and phonological indices in Semitic. Morphology 26,3: 379-397.

Nevins, Andrew. 2011. Phonologically conditioned allmorph selection. In Marc van Oostendorp et al. The Blackwell companion to phonology 4. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 2357-2382.

Paster, Mary. 2015. Phonologically conditioned suppletive allomorphy: Cross-linguistic results and theoretical consequences. In Eulàlia Bonet, Maria-Rosa Lloret, and Joan Mascaró, (eds.) Understanding Allomorphy: Perspectives from OT. Advances in Optimality Theory series. London: Equinox.

Scheer, Tobias. 2016. Melody-free syntax and phonologically conditioned allomorphy. To appear in Morphology 26,3: 341-378.

Raffelsiefen, Renate. 2016. Allomorphy and the question of abstractness: evidence from German. Morphology 26,3: 235-267.

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