Towards a Typology of Morpheme Orders

By Hilda Koopman (UCLA)

Syllabus (pdf)

NB: This course runs on Tuesday (13th)-Friday (16th).

Course Description

These four lectures are organized around the question if the interface of the syntax and the phonology can be taken to be direct as far as morpheme ordering is concerned.

The answer to this question depends on specific assumptions about the syntactic representations and derivations. As far as morpheme ordering is concerned, the interface must be direct in Kayne (1994)’s Antisymmetry framework[1]. In frameworks that assume syntactic head movement underlying word formation, as in Distributed Morphology[2], this cannot be correct as there are cases that cannot be derived by head movement. This means that frameworks (can) differ substantially with respect to the specific syntactic representations and derivations that are taken to underly morpheme ordering. As a result, mismatches arise between the syntactic representations and linear morpheme orders in some frameworks but not in others. Such mismatches are traditionally taken to motivate postsyntactic readjustment rules –these have been part of the analytical tool kit since the earliest days –, but rarely lead to questioning the underlying syntactic derivations, or questioning whether such tools are indeed required, or even possible parts of UG.

This raises the following questions:

  • Can we distinguish between different approaches to syntax on the basis of empirical predictions that are made about the typology of word shapes?
  • Do documented mismatches arise because we have the wrong syntax, or is the syntax underlying them in fact sound and well established?
  • Do we need local dislocation to account for morpheme orders?
  • Can we motivate, support, and implement syntactic analysis for cases where local dislocation is required, and sketch a reasonable path for language acquisition on the basis of easily accessible primary data?

I will make these questions tractable by propose a typology of possible morpheme orders based on what we know about the typology of syntactic word order patterns. The point of departure is the vibrant research that has emerged around Cinque (2005)’s modeling of Greenberg’s Universal 20 (U20). U20 type patterns turn out to (i) generalize to many hierarchical syntactic/semantic domains (i.e. given an independently motivated (universal) syntactic/semantic hierarchy, only certain linearization patterns are attested), (ii) show a fundamental left right asymmetry: the linear order before the lexical category is invariant, but orders after the lexical head are more variable (yet not everything goes), and (iii) are (I assume) build on phrasal movements in conjunction with a restricted set of parameters.

  • If there is one computational system underlying orders in syntax and mor- phology, we derive, through generalized U20, predictions about a basic typology of morphological patterns (which patterns are expected to arise, and which patterns are expected to be unattested.) These predictions dif- fer from frameworks without antisymmetry (or relying on head movement for word formation), and hence can be empirically tested.
  • In general, in a single computational system, we expect to find the same word order patterns (as well as unattested patterns) in the ”syntax” and the ”morphology”.

I pursue these predictions through various case studies

[1] See amongst others Koopman and Szabolcsi (2000), Julien (2002), Kayne (2005), Koop- man (2005)), Kayne (2010) Koopman (2014, 2015, 2016); Nanosyntax (Starke (2010), Caha (2009).

[2] See amongst others Halle and Marantz (1993), Embick and Noyer (2007), Harley (2012), Bobaljik (2011) Bobaljik (2012), Arregi and Nevins (2012)


  1. June 13 (Tue): Background- Expected typology/typologies, assumptions, guiding principles and how-to-test the typology: a case study of Wolof  Handout
  2. June 14 (Wed): Is local dislocation motivated? A case study of Huave. (cf.Embick and Noyer (2007))? Can phonology dictate morpheme order (as proposed by Kim (2010))
  3. June 15 (Thu): On local dislocation (continued)–A case of syntax semantics mismatch in English – and implications for a syntactic treatment of the ”exceptional” placement of German zu.
  4. June 16 (Fri): An evaluation of *213: problems and possible solutions; broadening the typology to second position phenomena


Arregi, Karlos, and Andrew Nevins. 2012. Morphotactics: Basque auxiliaries and the structure of spellout. Volume 86. Springer Science & Business Media.

Bobaljik, Jonathan David. 2011. Distributed morphology.

Bobaljik, Jonathan David. 2012. Universals in comparative morphology: Suppletion,

superlatives, and the structure of words. Volume 50. MIT Press.

Caha, Pavel. 2009. The nanosyntax of case .

Cinque, Guglielmo. 2005. Deriving Greenberg’s universal 20 and its exceptions. Linguistic inquiry, 36:315–332.

Embick, David, and Rolf Noyer. 2007. Distributed morphology and the syntax/morphology interface. The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces, 289–324.

Halle, Morris, and Alec Marantz. 1993. Distributed morphology and the pieces of inflection. In The View from Building 20, ed. Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser, 111–176. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Harley, Heidi. 2012. Semantics in distributed morphology. Semantics: International Handbook of Meaning. Volume 3.

Julien, Marit. 2002. Syntactic heads and word formation. Oxford University Press.

Kayne, Richard. 2010. Toward a syntactic reinterpretation of Harris and Halle (2005). Die Berliner Abendblätter Heinrich von Kleists: ihre Quellen und ihre Redaktion, 2:4.

Kayne, Richard S. 2005. Movement and Silence. Volume 36. Oxford University Press.

Kim, Yuni. 2010. Phonological and morphological conditions on affix order in Huave. Morphology 20:133–163.

Koopman, Hilda. 2005. Korean (and Japanese) morphology from a syntactic perspective. Linguistic Inquiry, 36:601–633.

Koopman, Hilda. 2014. Recursion restrictions: Where grammars count. In Recursion: Complexity in Cognition, 17–38. Springer.

Koopman, Hilda. 2015. Generalized u20 and morpheme order. Under review.

Koopman, Hilda. 2016. A note on Huave morpheme ordering: local dislocation or generalized u20?. Perspectives on the Architecture and Acquisition of Syntax: Essays in Honour of R. Amritavalli. Springer.

Koopman, Hilda J, and Anna Szabolcsi. 2000. Verbal Complexes. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Starke, Michal. 2010. Nanosyntax: A short primer to a new approach to language. Nordlyd, 36:1–6.

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