Retour vers liste

Détail de la contribution

Auteur: Paolo MILIZIA

Semi-separate exponence in cumulative paradigms. General properties exemplified by Ancient Greek verb endings.

Abstract/Résumé: In inflectional paradigms with cumulative exponence, relatively infrequent morphosyntactic feature values favor the presence of inflectional homonymy (see., e.g., the massive case syncretism in the dual of Sanskrit nouns, cf. Brøndal 1940, Greenberg 1966: 68ff.). Yet another phenomenon associated with low-frequency paradigm cells is the appearance of segmentable endings that can be interpreted as sequences of two morphs and, therefore, as instances of (semi-)separate exponence. This paper aims to describe these two tendencies from an information-theoretic point of view (cf. Kostić and Božić 2007, Milin et al. 2009) and to provide, on this basis, a unifying interpretation. As a case study, we consider the verbal endings in Ancient Greek and their frequency values as resulting from a computational elaboration based on the Ancient Greek Dependency Treebank. In the Ancient Greek verb, the dual and the 2nd person plural exhibit semi-separate exponence in that the medial endings are identical to the corresponding active ones except for their beginning with -sth- instead of -t-. The dual also shows person syncretism. Noticeably, the sum of the relative frequencies of the cells participating in this subsystem is significantly low (0.031). It can be shown that both syncretism and semi-separate exponence have the effect of making the distribution of the exponent set closer to uniform distribution (i.e., to the case where all exponents are equiprobable): in both phenomena the same exponent appears in more than one low-frequency cell so that its frequency is higher than that of the single cells where it appears. On the other hand, while syncretism achieves this result at the cost of loosing a certain amount of information, in the case of semi-separate exponence the same effect is obtained by diminishing the rate of information per morph, i.e. by increasing the average number of morphs contained in an inflected form. Moreover, the diachronic development from Proto-Indo-European to Ancient Greek suggests that the system evolved in such a way as to have semi-separate exponence in low-frequency cells rather than elsewhere. Brøndal, V. 1940. Compensation et variation, deux principes de linguistique générale. Scientia 68.101–109. Greenberg, J. 1966. Language universals, with special reference to the feature hierarchies. The Hague. Kostić, A., Božić, M. 2007. Constraints on probability distributions of grammatical forms. Psihologija 40.5–35. Milin, P., et al. 2009. Words and paradigms bit by bit. In: Analogy in Grammar: Form and Acquisition, ed. by J. P. Blevins and J. Blevins, 214–252. Oxford.