This project pursues a strictly derivational, cyclic, optimization-based approach to inflectional morphology that offers new perspectives on phenomena like affix order, extended exponence, disjunctive blocking, apparently non-local stem allomorphy, and *ABA patterns; beyond that it will primarily be investigated for recalcitrant concepts like impoverishment, exponent drop, deponency, paradigmatic gaps, morphological movement, discontinuous bleeding, and learning algorithms for underspecification.

This project pursues a cyclic, optimization-based approach to inflectional morphology that relies on Harmonic Serialism, a derivational alternative to Standard Parallel Optimality Theory.  The approach qualifies as lexical-realizational. In addition, like most current theories of inflectional morphology, this new approach recognizes a separate level of morphological realization in the grammar. However, unlike virtually all competing approaches, it does not rely on specific rules of exponence like, e.g, substitution transformations applying to terminal nodes (`vocabulary insertion'), entire subtrees, or spans; rather, it involves structure-building via (external or internal) Merge, as in the syntactic component of grammar.

Mainly due to its strictly derivational nature (and the related fact that decisions in morphological derivations will often be myopic), an approach to inflectional morphology in terms of harmonic serialism can be shown to offer new perspectives on some core phenomena in inflectional morphology, among them affix order, extended exponence, disjunctive blocking, apparently non-local stem allomorphy, and *ABA patterns.  Perhaps the most striking property of the new approach is that it automatically predicts the existence of movement of morphological exponents in words, which contributes to a solution of several long-standing problems with discontinuous exponence, seemingly non-local phonological reflexes, seemingly non-local stem allomorphy, and discontinuous partially superfluous extended exponence.

Against this background, the first goal of the research project is to establish this approach as a viable alternative to current morphological theories, like Distributed Morphology or Paradigm Function Morphology. The second, more far-reaching goal is to show that it can solve some recalcitrant problems for existing theories in the areas of impoverishment, exponent drop, deponency, paradigmatic gaps, morphological movement, discontinuous bleeding, and learning algorithms for underspecification.

A part of a hedge maze can be seen.
Sequential optimization; photo: Colourbox