School of Languages and Linguistics - Research Publications

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    Category Clustering and Morphological Learning
    Mansfield, J ; Saldana, C ; Hurst, P ; Nordlinger, R ; Stoll, S ; Bickel, B ; Perfors, A (WILEY, 2022-02)
    Inflectional affixes expressing the same grammatical category (e.g., subject agreement) tend to appear in the same morphological position in the word. We hypothesize that this cross-linguistic tendency toward category clustering is at least partly the result of a learning bias, which facilitates the transmission of morphology from one generation to the next if each inflectional category has a consistent morphological position. We test this in an online artificial language experiment, teaching adult English speakers a miniature language consisting of noun stems representing shapes and suffixes representing the color and number features of each shape. In one experimental condition, each suffix category has a fixed position, with color in the first position and number in the second position. In a second condition, each specific combination of suffixes has a fixed order, but some combinations have color in the first position, and some have number in the first position. In a third condition, suffixes are randomly ordered on each presentation. While the language in the first condition is consistent with the category clustering principle, those in the other conditions are not. Our results indicate that category clustering of inflectional affixes facilitates morphological learning, at least in adult English speakers. Moreover, we found that languages that violate category clustering but still follow fixed affix ordering patterns are more learnable than languages with random ordering. Altogether, our results provide evidence for individual biases toward category clustering; we suggest that this bias may play a causal role in shaping the typological regularities in affix order we find in natural language.
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    Positional dependency in Murrinhpatha: expanding the typology of non-canonical morphotactics
    Nordlinger, R ; Mansfield, J (Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2021-01-27)
    Principles of morphotactics are a major source of morphological diversity amongst the world’s languages, and it is well-known that languages exhibit many different types of deviation from a canonical ideal in which there is a unique and consistent mapping between function and form. In this paper we present data from Murrinhpatha (non-Pama-Nyungan, northern Australia) that demonstrates a type of non-canonical morphotactics so far unattested in the literature, one which we call positional dependency. This type is unusual in that the non-canonical pattern is driven by morphological form rather than by morphosyntactic function. In this case the realisation of one morph is dependent on the position in the verbal template of another morph. Thus, it is the linearisation of morphs that conditions the morphological realisation, not the morphosyntactic feature set. Positional dependency in Murrinhpatha thus expands our typology of content-form interactions and non-canonical morphotactics with implications for our understanding of morphological structure cross-linguistically.