Sum: term

Larry Trask larryt at
Thu Jan 15 14:36:49 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
A few days ago I posted a request for a term.  Once again, the
phenomenon I wanted a name for was this: a change that leads to
simplification in one domain often produces a simultaneous
complication in another domain.
The most familiar examples of this phenomenon, of course, involve
phonological simplifications and morphological complications, but
that's not the only possibility, as I perhaps should have pointed out
in my original query.  For example, syntagmatic phonological
simplifications can produce paradigmatic phonological complications,
as when palatalization in palatalizing environments produces new
marked segments, like the Czech fricative trill.  Then again,
analogical leveling (morphological simplification) can produce new
alternations in stems that formerly didn't alternate (morphological
complication), as has happened in some varieties of Serbo-Croatian (if
I'm still allowed to use that name).
The motive for my query was this.  As many of you know, I am compiling
a dictionary of historical and comparative linguistics.  Now, in
recent years, we have coined a rather large number of terms in the
field, and I've noticed that good names have been coined for a number
of familiar phenomena for which we formerly had no names; examples are
`actualization' (Timberlake), `metatypy' (Ross), `pandemic
irregularity' (Blust), `exaptation' (Lass), and `phonogenesis'
(Hopper), not to mention the memorable `morphanization' (Matisoff).
But I haven't found a recognized name for the phenomenon I'm
interested in here.  But, since the phenomenon, as Steven Schaufele
has pointed out, is such a fundamental one in our field, it seems to
me that we really ought to have a name for it.  Hence my query.
Fifteen people replied, and the first thing to report is that there
does indeed appear to be no recognized name for the phenomenon.
Almost everyone had one or more suggestions to make, but no two people
suggested the same term (though in one case two people came fairly
close).  A couple of people suggested terms which they themselves had
apparently used in print, but I guess those proposals haven't caught
on yet.
Anyway, here are the terms proposed, or most of them.  I omit a couple
of totally facetious suggestions, and one or two which were so
exceedingly long that I don't think they can be considered as terms.
A couple of people, I think, thought that I was asking specifically
for a label for the conversion of phonology into morphology, but in
fact I have in mind something more general than that.
STURTEVANT'S PARADOX (unspecified variation on)
Right.  Now what do I do?  Call for a vote?  Organize a competition
with five distinguished judges and a prize of two weeks in the PIE
homeland of your choice?  Close my eyes and stick a pin?  Ask Roger
Lass what the biologists call it?  Coin my own term and hope everybody
buys the book and believes me?  Or should I just admit defeat and not
include any term for this, on the not unreasonable ground that
dictionaries shouldn't be including words that don't exist?
Damned if I know.  But it *would* be nice if we had *some* name for
this.  Otherwise, how can we persuade our students it's important if
we haven't got a name for it?  I mean, I don't recall that so many
Americans go hot and bothered about visiting ever more soldiers and
bombs on the Vietnamese until somebody decided that what was happening
was `escalation', and then suddenly escalation was a hot issue.
Anyway, my thanks to Jacob Baltuch, Vit Bubenik, Miguel Carrasquer
Vidal, John Costello, Guy Deutscher, Hans-Olav Engel, Ralf-Stefan
Georg, Harold Koch, Bh. Krishnamurti, Paul Lloyd, Gary Miller, Steven
Schaufele, Theo Vennemann, Benji Wald, and Roger Wright.
(Hey -- how come no women?)
Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
larryt at

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