[FUNKNET] Upper limits to morpheme length

Sat Dec 21 18:56:15 UTC 2013


Thanks. I certainly agree with what you say.

So, let us just say, any morpheme, though I bound morphemes are what I had in mind originally.

To reiterate, what I am asking is not if people have an opinion on the matter (which is not what you said at all, Marianne, but what some have said off-line) but whether anyone knows of a theory that proposes to derive an upper bound on morpheme length.

"Tend to be small" I certainly agree with. And I think that cognitive - whether learnability or processing -  reasons are implicated. But that is not my theory. Just my hunch. I was interested in identifying a theory, should one exist, that derives the length limits and says what "small" is and why.

I suspect that none exists. And I doubt that one should. But, again, that's just me thinking overtly in electrons at my computer.


 Dec 21, 2013, at 1:37 PM, Marianne Mithun wrote:

> Dan, you haven't said what kind of morphemes. For a start, there's probably going to be a difference between roots and affixes. And affixes tend to be small because of all of the processes involved in their development.
> Marianne
> --On Saturday, December 21, 2013 4:10 PM +0000 "Everett, Daniel" <DEVERETT at bentley.edu> wrote:
>> Please excuse the double-posting.
>> I haven't worked on this stuff for a while, so I will undoubtedly show my
>> ignorance of some large body of research, but I was wondering (due to a
>> question from a colleague) whether there is any work that tries to derive
>> a maximum morpheme length (I wouldn't think this would be the way to
>> address the issue, frankly, but I could be quite wrong).
>> As the question was put to me: "It seems to me that almost all morphemes
>> are quite short?probably not easy to find one with e.g. 12 phoneme
>> segments.  The question is is there anything in known phonological
>> theories which predict this?or is it just assumed that morphemes can be
>> of any length and that the reason there are none of length e.g. 624, 578
>> is simply that they would be unlearnable?  The latter would be my ideal
>> view, just as the reason that no one uses a sentence of length 624,578
>> words has to do with practical performance limitations."
>> I know that there is work on "resizing theory" (Pycha 2008) and various
>> other approaches linking morphology and metrical structure. But those
>> approaches so far as I know offer no principled upper bound to morpheme
>> length.
>> Any help would be appreciated.
>> Happy holidays to all,
>> Dan Everett

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