Optimal Construction Morphology

August 9, 2013

Sharon Inkelas and Gabriela Caballero (PhD 2008) are developing a theoretical production model of morphology, called Optimal Construction Morphology, whose aim is to predict the optimal combination of morphological constructions that can produce a word of a given target meaning in a given language. OCM builds on earlier theories such as Lexical Morphology and Phonology, A-Morphous Morphology, Paradigm Function Morphology, and Construction Grammar, synthesizing the contributions of realizational, item-based and cyclic morphological theories in novel ways. In OCM, each layer of morphology in a complex word is the winner of a competition. All the possible single morphological constructions that could combine with a given stem compete, in Optimality-theoretic fashion, to see which does the best job of bringing the word under construction into conformity with the target meaning. Thus far, Inkelas and Caballero have focused on the phenomena of blocking (worse blocks *badd-er and *worse-r) and its apparent opposite, multiple exponence (e.g. tol-d, in which the root and the suffix both mark past tense). The co-existence of anti-redundancy (blocking) and redundancy (multiple exponence) in morphology has long been a thorn in the side of morphological theories; OCM promises to illuminate this uneasy co-existence.