[FUNKNET] Upper limits to morpheme length

Sat Dec 21 19:39:40 UTC 2013


Thanks for the suggestions. I just received the following from Bruce Hayes which exactly answers my question. With Bruce's permission, I pass this along here.

All the best for the end of one year and the beginning of another. I hope you have all finished posting your grades and are now able to relax a bit.

-- Dan

> 1) The main way to get really long morphemes, I suspect, is to borrow from languages with which you have little contact, so you can't parse their long polymorphemic words. Hence English Okaloacoochee, Hanamanioa, Chaugoggagoggmanchagaugagoochaubungungamogg.
> 2) I think the upper limit for English morphemes is three metrical feet.  When I make up a four-foot word it sounds odd to me, e.g. ?Okaloaseppacoochee.  The famous lake Chaugoggagoggmanchaugagoggchaubungungamogg is not an exception; it pronounced as three separate phonological words:  Chaugoggagogg, manchaugagaug, ch[schwa]bunagungamogg.
> 3) If you adopt the phonotactic model of Hayes and Wilson (LI 2008), then if you include a contraint of the type *Struc, and train up the grammar, you get the right predictions: *Struc gets a modest weight, which predicts a descending-exponential probability function for words of ever-increasing length.  In this theory, the extreme unlikelihood of extremely long words is simply an extrapolation from the moderate unlikelihood of somewhat-long words.
> Best regards,
> Bruce
> Bruce Hayes
> Professor and Chair
> Department of Linguistics, UCLA
> Los Angeles CA  90095-1543
> bhayes at humnet.ucla.edu
> www.linguistics.ucla/people/hayes

>>>> 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
> Links:
> ------
> [1]
> mailto:DEVERETT at bentley.edu

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