The Search for Regularity in Irregularity: Defectiveness and its Implications for our Knowledge of Words

Marianne Mithun

in Defective Paradigms

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264607
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734366 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Search for Regularity in Irregularity: Defectiveness and its Implications for our Knowledge of Words

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The longstanding issue in morphological theory has been the status of inflected forms in the memory. In general, the irregular forms of words are assumed to be learned, stored, and retrieved for use. While the contention on the storage of irregular forms seemed to be clear and cohesive, the views on the nature of storage of regular words vary. For some, all inflected forms are stored while some contend that storage is not homogenous, wherein the frequently-used forms are stored and retrieved for use while the rarer forms are more likely to be assembled by analogy to stored forms or by rule. This chapter investigates inflectional gaps or defectiveness in languages exhibiting extensive inflection. Such languages are rich sources of inflection by rule. In what follows is an extensive investigation of the defectiveness in two unrelated polysynthetic languages with extensive but regular inflectional paradigms. The first language examined is the Central Alaskan Yup'ik which is an Eskimo-Aleut language of the southwestern Alaska. The second language evaluated is the Mohawk, an Iroquoian language of the northeastern North America. The patterns of defectiveness of both languages provide insight into the patterns of storage of some regular inflected forms and the effect of the frequency of occurrence of some regular forms of words on the storage patterns.

Keywords: morphological theory; inflected forms; irregular words; regular words; storage; inflectional gaps; defectiveness; inflection; polysynthetic languages; Mohawk

Chapter.  7522 words. 

Subjects: Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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