Academic journal article SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics

Modeling Polyfunctional Word Formation Patterns. A Construction Morphology Account of Adjectival Derivation in the History of German

Academic journal article SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics

Modeling Polyfunctional Word Formation Patterns. A Construction Morphology Account of Adjectival Derivation in the History of German

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

The research presented here derives from my dissertation on adjectival word formation in the history of German (Kempf 2016). The study aims to draw a coherent picture of word formation change from Early New High German (ENHG) to New High German (NHG) (1) with a special focus on the three most dominant suffixation patterns, -lich, -ig, and -isch (cognates to English -ly, -y, and -ish). (2) The monograph combines a new corpus study with the results of previous empirical works. (3) It contrasts the ENHG vs. NHG functional range of each pattern, mainly using the empirical findings of Thomas (2002) and Kuhnhold et al. (1978). Based on comprehensive corpora of Nurnberg ENHG around the year 1500 and standard written German of the 20th century, respectively, both monographs offer in depth functional analyses of the relevant patterns for each period. As these works focus on data analysis, it does not lie within their scope to develop a theory for modeling word formation patterns. However, in order to fully understand the functionality of a derivational pattern, a suitable model is needed. For one thing, we need a clear idea of (or at least some thorough reflection on) how a "pattern" is to be conceived of, and how it is assumed to be linked with other aspects of grammatical knowledge. For another, we need tools to capture the synchronic functionality of a pattern adequately, so as to compare it to other patterns as well as to other periods.

In this paper, I will sketch an extended Construction Morphology account to achieve these ends. After a more detailed description of the data and the problem in [section]2, I will turn to reviewing the state of research ([section]3). Section 4 will introduce and flesh out the account and also discuss its advantages and its current limits, while [section]5 gives a conclusion as well as an outlook on future perspectives.

2 The data and the problem

2.1 Adjective formation: a challenge to theory building

Adjective formation constitutes an often neglected, yet worthwhile challenge to theory building. Adjectives may be perceived as a "third string" among the three main parts of speech (i.e. nouns, verbs, and adjectives), as displaying little character of their own, or as living in the wake of nouns (Eichinger 2007: 113). In present day German, there are but a few hundred primary adjectives (Trost 2006: 215; Eichinger 2009: 150). This, however, makes for an excellent breeding ground for word formation: the realm of adjectives offers a high density of secondary words and of competing word formation patterns. Competition is traditionally recognized as one of the primal problems of word formation theory.

Another notorious problem for theory building is affix polysemy. This phenomenon, too, is found abundantly in adjectival word formation. Even though some suffixes are considered monofunctional (e.g. -en (wooden), -able (downloadable), -less frameless)), a great many adjectival suffixes are highly polysemous or fuzzy in meaning, e.g. -y (hairy 'with X', sleepy 'inclined to X-ing', booky 'addicted to X', bushy 'like X', etc.) or -al (intentional 'with X', architectural 'about X, concerning X'). This has to do with a core characteristic of the word class: as a dependent part of speech (Trost 2006: 5), an adjective generally occurs together with the word it modifies--henceforth called the collocator (adapting Ganslmayer's 2012: 116 term Kollokator). (4) Therefore, adjectives can afford to be, and very often are, semantically underspecified (Trost 2006: 402). The exact reading of the adjective then crystallizes in context. This holds as well, in fact even more, for adjectival suffixes. The next section gives an example of a highly polysemous ENHG suffix.

2.2 Case example ENHG -lich-derivation

The adjective forming suffix -lich has, since at least Old High German times, occurred in quite a number of different functions. …

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