The Unitary Base Hypothesis and the Semantics of Word Formation Rules Fabio MONTERMINI Université de Paris X – Nanterre / Università di Bologna via Menconi, 11 43100 Parma, Italy [email protected] Introduction1 Early approaches to lexical morphology within the generative framework elaborated a series of conditions and restrictions to word formation rules (henceforth WFR) which paid only little attention, if any, to the semantic aspect of rules themselves and to semantic relationships between morphological constituents. However, as many works pointed out, these conditions appeared in turn to be too restrictive when faced to new, more complex, data. In the last years, a new attitude towards lexical rules emerged, one which paid more attention to semantics in spite of formal restrictions. According to these approaches many facts, formerly excluded from the theory and labeled as ‘exceptions’, may actually be reintegrated into it. The goal of this paper will be, then, to review one principle of early lexical morphology, the so-called Unitary Base Hypothesis (Aronoff (1976)), in semantic terms, in order to determine whether, and in which measure, semantics is more adequate to account for some facts which were rejected by it. The data on which this paper will be based will be almost exclusively taken from Italian; it is not excluded, however, that its main claims will be applicable to other languages. In particular, I will concentrate on data which have often been neglected by morphologists, such as apparently irregular behaviors of WFRs, or apparently less prototypical WFRs. In facts, early morphological theories were for a great part constructed on a very little range of data, supposed to be the most central ones, and disregarded all the behaviors which were considered to be eccentric with respect to this ‘core’. A very clear example of 1 Many thanks to Françoise Kerleroux and to Nicola Grandi for their useful comments to an earlier version of this paper. that is, in my opinion, the treatment which has been proposed for prefixation in many works of morphology. The morphological component was divided into two great areas, composition and affixal derivation, which included, on its turn, suffixation and prefixation. Behind this distinction, however, there was no clear reflection on the nature of each different operation, but rather, principles were elaborated to treat what was considered the ‘core’ of derivational processes – i.e. suffixation – and prefixation was implicitly admitted to conform to these principles, or to be considered a less regular rule. Together with prefixation there are many other morphological operations that are considered less regular, namely because they do not conform to the principles which are established. A second great goal of this paper will be to find a way to permit morphology to treat these operations as well. The main hypothesis I defend is that semantic coherence may constitute a good key to get into this attempt. As I remarked above, recent convergent works in morphology proposed new treatments for morphological phenomena giving predominance to semantic coherence rather than to categorical relationships. It seems to me that the emergence of this new way to look into morphology may be linked with a new mentality in linguistic analysis, expressed by such theories as the Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky (1993)), which states that phonological processes are best described by a set of constraints on output forms, that constraints are violable at a certain measure, and that the actually realized output form is the one that violates less the most relevant constraints. One clear example of application of this attitude to morphology is I. Plag’s (1998) paper on the polysemy of –ize derivatives in English. The main claim of his work is that syntactic restrictions are not as important as semantic conditions of well-formedness are in de- termining the range of possible inputs for the – ize WFR. This hypothesis provokes a shift in perspective for the analysis of WFRs, i.e., in Plag’s words, “from the possible input to the possible output by rephrasing the traditional input-output relation between base, affix and derivative as a general condition on the output” (Plag (1998: 238)). Other works to which I will refer in this paper are D. Corbin’s (1999; f.c.) papers on the distinction between prefixes and suffixes in French. Though Corbin is less explicit in positing an output-oriented point of view, and she doesn’t cite Plag’s paper, I think that when she claims that “l’instruction sémantique dont tous les affixes sont porteurs […] serait responsable de leur instruction catégorielle” (Corbin (f.c.: 2)), we can place these papers in the same line as Plag’s. In order to better explain how semantics may constitute the central point around which WFR are constructed, I will propose three observation, corresponding to the leading ideas which will inspire this work: i) as it was already pointed out by Aronoff, WFRs are at the same time a device for analyzing existing complex words and for creating new ones (Aronoff (1976: 1)). Anyway, “it may not be possible or even desirable […] to treat them exactly the same manner” (Aronoff (1976: 1)). In fact, a well known leitmotiv of linguistics is that the passive competence of a speaker is much wider than the active one. In morphological terms, it means that a speaker is able to understand correctly more complex words than he is able to produce, and then that a morphological theory which gives predominance to semantic coherence of complex words is preferable to one which gives predominance to rigid syntactic restrictions. The latter is condemned not to take into account a large amount of perfectly understandable existing words, when they do not conform to its restrictions; ii) a clear distinction should be posited between what system-internal rules of morphology permit to do and the actually attested lexicon. It is clear that the latter is to be considered only in relationship with the former, for the lexicon recorded in dictionaries is subject to various influences, as historic accidents, pragmatic conditions, and so on. One example will clarify this point. The Italian prefix sotto-, apart from the common spatial meaning (‘under’), may take rather different secondary meanings, indicating the non-reaching by an entity of a socially established norm, the subdivision of a larger entity, hierarchical subordination, etc, a distinction we observe in the verbs derived by sotto- of (1)2: (1) utilizzare → ‘to utilize’ porre → ‘to put’ sottoutilizzare ‘to utilize not fully’ sottoporre ‘to submit’ Both base verbs in (1) are transitive and share the same selection restriction; in facts, only pragmatic knowledge permits us to determine that sottoutilizzare means ‘to utilize not fully’ and not, for instance, ‘to utilize something in its lower part’; iii) a too rigid dichotomy in derivation between suffixes and prefixes is misleading. As observation shows, there are prefixes which follow rigid restrictions, as there are suffixes which are more loose. It is likely that a scale of prototypicity should be posited for both classes of sublexical categories (though, as we will see below, prefixes are in general less prototypical affixes than suffixes), and that the violation of restriction should be regarded as transversal to the prefixes-suffixes distinction. The hypothesis I defend is that the less a WFR is prototypical, the more crucial semantic coherence becomes for its acceptability by speakers 1 The ‘Unitary Base Hypothesis’ Let us pass now to concretely review the principle referred to above. As it is well known, the Unitary Base Hypothesis (henceforth UBH) was first elaborated by Aronoff in the following terms: “the syntacticosemantic specification of the base, though it may be more or less complex, is always unique” (Aronoff (1976: 48)). This means that a WFR always selects only one syntactic category to which it may apply. Such a claim is quite easily refutable, and indeed it has been repeatedly revised and re-elaborated in order to reincorporate into the restriction the apparent counterexamples. Scalise, for instance, remarking that many suffixes freely attach to different bases, proposed a modified version of the 2 For a detailed analysis of the prefix sotto- in Italian, cf. Grandi and Montermini (f.c.). UBH (henceforth MUBH), according to which a suffix may be applied to bases containing a common feature of syntactic category within the X-bar theory (Scalise (1990: 206)). Thus, in the examples of (2), the suffix –anza, which attaches to both verbs or adjectives, does not violate the UBH, since the categories verb and adjective, according to the X-bar model, share the feature [+Verb]: (2) tollerareV ‘to tolerate’ lontanoA ‘far’ → → tolleranzaN ‘tolerance’ lontananzaN ‘distance’ Moreover, Scalise claims that the UBH only holds for suffixation, since prefixes tend to attach freely to bases belonging to any of the three major lexical categories. However, as I remarked above, a theory which distinguishes too neatly between prefixation and suffixation, which are supposed to represent the two faces of a unitary affixal operation, should be avoided, and, which is more important, leads to false predictions. Given the picture drawn above, in fact, we would expect prefixes to attach always to any lexical category without restrictions and suffixes to attach only to one, maximum categories. It is quite easy to demonstrate that these predictions are false. There are prefixes in Italian which attach to only one category of bases without exceptions, for instance, the prefix ri- which only attaches to verbs to form verbs, or the prefix vice- which selects nouns indicating an office: (3) fareV → ‘to do’ presidenteN → ‘president’ rifareV ‘to do again’ vice-presidenteN ‘vice-president’ On the other hand, there are many suffixes which attach to bases belonging to different categories, both violating the UBH, and the MUBH. Scalise himself presents some problematic data for the UMBH, as the suffixes -ismo/ista, which apparently may attach to any major lexical category: (4) PetrarcaN → petrarchismo/ista ‘Petrarch’ ‘petrarchism/ist’ socialeA → socialismo/ista ‘social’ ‘socialism/ist’ determinareV → determinismo/ista ‘to determine’ ‘determinism/ist’ Scalise resolves this problem by claiming that –ismo and -ista don’t attach productively to verbs (Scalise (1990: 207-208)), but this solution appears too easy to be fully convincing. In different places, moreover, he treats the apparently exceptional behaviors of other suffixes, such as – bile (5.a.) or –oso (5.b.): (5) a. tascaN → tascabileA ‘pocket’ ‘pocketA’ (Scalise (1994a: 107)) b. comodoA → comodosoA ‘comfortable’ ‘comfortable’ (Scalise (1994a: 37)) In (5.a.) a suffix which is typically attached to verbs to form adjectives (e.g. mangiare ‘to eat’ → magiabile ‘edible’) is attached to a noun, while in (5.b.) a suffix which is typically attached to nouns (noia ‘boredom’ → noioso ‘boring’) is attached to an adjective to form another adjective. What I would like to propose in this respect is a reflection on how those principles such as the UBH were established by scholars. In order to formulate a strong hypothesis on the categorial relationship of a WFR, one might base himself on three kinds of observations: i) the meanings and categorial relationships of affixes as they are described in previous works, and in particular in ‘traditional’ grammars; ii) his own intuition as a native speaker of a given language; i.e.: ‘I know’ that the suffix – bile forms adjectives from transitive verbs, then the corresponding rule may be formalized as [[X]Vtr –bile]A; iii) statistic estimates on the attested lexicon, in particular on dictionaries; Clearly, none of these possibilities is useful if it is not supported by a large observation of real data. Quite often, data which do not conform to the hypothesis formulated according to the above mentioned procedures are considered ‘peripheral’, in opposition to the supposed ‘core’ of a rule. So, for instance, Scalise (1994: 107) labels as exceptions to the –bile WFR, apart from tascabile, such words as those of (6), claiming that the suffix –bile only forms adjectives from transitive verbs: (6) PapaN → papabileA ‘Pope’ ‘potentially eligible Pope’ camionN → camionabileA ‘truck’ ‘open to the circulation of trucks’ In order to maintain the generalization [[X]Vtr –bile]A, it could be claimed that tascabile and the words of (6) are indeed formed from an hypothetical denominal verb created by conversion from the corresponding nouns. In fact a WFR which forms verbs from nouns by conversion exists in Italian and is quite productive (e.g. bastoneN ‘stick’ → bastonareV ‘to beat with a stick’). The fact that the verbs *tascare, *papare, and *camionare are not found in Italian dictionaries would not constitute a serious problem for this hypothesis, since any serious morphological theory should be based on system-internal rules and not on the work of lexicographers. Actually, the definitive argument to abandon the hypothesis that those words are constructed on a virtual verb formed by conversion, is the fact that the hypothetical verb camionare, for instance, would never mean, in Italian, ‘to circulate on a road with a truck’, which is the meaning it should have if camionabile was productively constructed on it. Similarly, it seems to me hard to imagine that the hypothetical verbs *papare and *tascare would mean, respectively ‘to elect someone Pope’, and ‘to put something in a pocket’. The only solution, thus, is to consider that the adjectives of (6) are directly constructed on the nouns papa and camion. It may be observed, in addition, that adjectives are productively created by means of the suffix –bile from non verbal bases with a transparent meaning; it means that this process could hardly be defined ‘peripheral’. For instance, the forms of (7)3 seems to me perfectly transparent from a semantic point of view, and thus well formed: (7) azzurroN → ‘player in the Italian football team’ (lit. ‘blue’) bancaN → ‘bank’ azzurrabileA4 ‘likely to be called to play in the Italian team’ bancabileA ‘likely to become the customer of a bank’ Remark that the same observations made for tascabile, papabile and camionabile hold for the words in (7): the hypothetical verbs *azzurrare and *bancare would hardly mean ‘to call someone to play in the Italian team’ and ‘to make someone the customer of a bank’. Analogous observations for the French suffix –able are proposed by Dal (1997: 95), in such words as ministrable (‘likely to become a minister’). Dal claims that this suffix should be regarded as a “marqueur de possibilité” (‘possibility marker’), which is ideally attached to verbal bases, but its attachment to bases of different categories is not forbidden by the system itself, though less likely to happen. The same statement seems to me to hold for Italian. Another example of a suffix with a behavior which apparently is largely ‘irregular’ is the Italian suffix –oso. Scalise (1994: 37) defines the – oso WFR as forming adjectives from nouns, and claims that the form comodoso of (3) is ‘strange’, for it is created violating the normal WFR. In fact, it is certain that the output of this rule is always an adjective, which sometimes may even have the characteristics of a relationship adjective (e.g. arterioso in pressione arteriosa ‘arterial pressure’), i.e. the typical denominal adjective. However, a rapid glance to a list of neologisms I have collected reveals that the construction of adjectives by –oso with different bases than nouns, such as adjectives (7.a.) or 3 Both forms were encountered in recent press. The only problem with camionabile and azzurrabile is represented by the vowel –a, which is absent in the bases. Since the suffix may not be stated as having the form -abile (with verbs of the second and of the third class it is preceded by an –i), we are forced to postulate a special readjustment rule for this suffix when it is attached to non verbal stems. 4 verbs (7.b.), is possible and even reasonably productive: (7) a. bugiardoA ‘liar’ morbidoA ‘soft’ → → b. brontolareV → ‘grumble’ incazzarsiV → ‘to get annoyed’ bugiardosissimoA ‘a real liar’ morbidosoA ‘soft’ brontolosoA ‘grumbler’ incazzosoA5 ‘irascible’ Indeed, a more accurate observation of data from a dictionary (Zingarelli (1997)) shows that the generalization [[X]N]A is true for the majority of cases, but also that other patterns are minoritary but not marginal. Of almost 1.100 adjectives formed with the suffix –oso 63 cannot be considered having a nominal base but rather a verbal or an adjectival one; this number, though not big in percentage terms, is not negligible in absolute ones, even because many words from this list are quite common, and perfectly transparent ones: (8) a. grandeA ‘big’ serioA ‘serious’ → → b. pensareV → ‘to think’ precipitareV → ‘to fling down’ scivolareV → ‘to silp’ (9) studiosoA ‘studious’ untuosoA ‘greasy’ pensosoA ‘thoughtful’ precipitosoA ‘hasty’ scivolosoA ‘slippery’ Bugiardosissimo is taken from C.E. Gadda’s novel La cognizione del dolore (-issimo is the superlative suffix for adjectives in Italian), the three other forms from various newspapers and magazines. ← ← studioN / studiareV ‘study’ / ‘to study’ untoN / untoA ‘grease’ / ‘greasy’ Once again, let us turn to the semantics of this suffix. The dictionary definition (Zingarelli (1997)) states that –oso indicates “possession of a property, abundance, fullness, pronounced characterization”7. In this case too, it is clear that the possession of a property, etc., is typically expressed referring to the noun denoting that property, but may also be expressed referring to a verb denoting an action. It is semantics, indeed, which permits us to determine from which of the two possible bases indicated the forms in –oso of (9) derive. Observation on a corpus of recently coined words in –oso, in facts, shows that in the great majority of cases this suffix, when attached to nouns, forms adjectives meaning, roughly, ‘containing a lot of N’: grandiosoA ‘grandiose’ seriosoA ‘quite serious’ For the words of (8) a nominal base hypothesis does not hold, for the corresponding deverbal or deadjectival nouns have quite different forms: grande / grandezza, serio / serietà, pensare / 5 pensiero6, etc. One more observation, on the contrary, tend to confirm the hypothesis of an attachment of –oso to bases different than nouns: apart from the 63 adjectives in –oso with nonnominal base referred to above, there are many other which are systematically ambiguous with respect to their base: (10)8 cipollaN → ‘onion’ plasticaN → ‘plastic’ cipollosoA ‘with a strong taste of onion’ plasticosoA ‘containing a lot of plastic’ On the contrary, as it can be seen from the examples in (7.b.), when attached to verbs, -oso usually has the meaning ‘(someone) who Vs a lot’. To go back to the words in (9), it is clear that a form like studioso will be more likely be interpreted as derived from a verb and meaning ‘(someone) who studies a lot’ than as derived 6 It is remarkable that the form pensieroso also exists. In this text I used quite elementary semantic representations for WFR taken from a common dictionary. It is not excluded, however, that the principles exposed here are compatible with more formal semantic descriptions 8 The examples of (10) are taken from Bencini & Citernesi (1992). 7 from a noun meaning ‘study’. On the other hand, the interpretation ‘containing a lot of N’ is perfectly compatible with the nominal base unto for the derivation of untuoso. It is a good example, I think, of how semantics is capable to catch some facts which escape to rigid formal restrictions. As it has been described so far, -oso resembles much another Italian suffix, -one, which synchronically has a primary augmentative meaning (11.a.), but which may be attached to nouns or verbs to indicate a person who has a pronounced characteristic (capelloN ‘hair’ → capelloneN ‘long haired person’; mangiareV ‘to eat’ → mangioneN ‘an hearty eater’, cf. Grandi (2000)). It will be argued that –one is one of the socalled ‘evaluative’ suffixes, a category of suffixes which has special features in many respects (cf. Scalise (1994: 264-266)), and thus that –oso, sharing a characteristic with it, should be regarded as a more peripheral suffix than other ones. The behavior of –oso, however, remembers the one already observed for –bile, which could hardly be referred to as a ‘peripheral’ suffix, and may be observed with many other suffixes (e.g. –ivo, –aggio, etc.). Let us now go back to the prefixes of (3), in particular to ri-. According to the dictionary definition (Zingarelli (1997)), ri- expresses the meanings “repetition, reduplication, return to a previous state”. It is clear that these meanings are more easily applicable to verbal bases, thus ri- typically attaches to verbs or to deverbal nouns and adjectives: (12) eleggereV → ‘to elect’ elezioneN → ‘election’ eleggibileA → ‘eligible’ rieleggereV ‘to re-elect’ rielezioneN ‘re-election’ rieleggibileA ‘re-eligible’ The attachment of this prefix to different bases sounds quite odd, in particular, I claim, for semantic reasons (repetition is typical of verbs, not of nouns and adjectives), and, when it is possible at all, it is limited to special cases. The data presented so far show that the violation of the UBH is not an eccentric behavior of some peripheral suffixes, but rather a possibility which is activated for a great part of WFRs, and, moreover, that it cannot be considered a distinguishing characteristic of prefixes in relation with suffixes, since both categories show different behaviors according to it. 2 The ‘Unitary Output Hypothesis’ Another principle strictly linked to the UBH is what Scalise calls the Unitary Output Hypothesis (“Ipotesi dell’Uscita Unica”, Scalise (1994: 187; 210)), according to which (the translation is mine) “a WFR always changes the category of the base for the reason that the rule has its own constant meaning, which is independent from the information associated to the base”. This hypothesis is undoubtedly intended by Scalise to hold only for suffixation, for he claims that prefixes never change the category of the base they attach to (Scalise (1994: 95)). Actually, prefixes which are able to change the category of their bases does not appear as marginal as they always have been considered to be. Apart from the well known cases of English prefixes en- or de- (nobleA → ennobleV), or the so-called Romance parasynthetic prefixes (e.g. lungoA ‘long’ → allungareV ‘to lengthen’, barcaN ‘boat’ → imbarcareV ‘to embark’), it seems that the real incidence of category changing prefixes have been largely underestimated, as the following data – including different kinds of prefixes, such as spatio-temporal (13.b.) or quantitative (13.c.) ones – seem to show: (13) a. cane anti-valanga ‘anti-avalanche dog’ b. tensione pre-partita ‘pre-match tension’ c. guanti monouso ‘mono-usage gloves’ The traditional view, according to which prefixes are ‘transparent’ with respect to the base they attach to. So, any substantial distinction which can be made between prefixation and suffixation on the basis of the categorizing power is not justified, as he data in (13) confirm. It should be admitted, anyway, that the same prefixes which in (13) have a categorizing power in other cases seem to be transparent to the category of their bases: (14) a. eroeN ‘hero’ igienicoA ‘hygienic’ → → b. esistenzaN → ‘existence’ maturoA → ‘mature’ antieroeN ‘antihero’ antigienicoA ‘unhygienic’ pre-esistenzaN ‘pre-existence’ prematuroA ‘premature’ On the other hand, however, it can be observed that there are some suffixes which may form words belonging to more than one category, as the suffix –ista, whose outputs are both nouns or adjectives (ottimoA → ‘excellent’ → ottimistaN/A ‘optimist/optimistic’) or evaluative suffixes which are often transparent to the category of their bases (giocoN ‘game’ → giochettoN ‘a child’s play’, scoppiareV ‘to explode’ → scoppiettareV ‘to crackle’). What I propose is that categorizing power, and the UOH, are indeed transversal to the prefixes-suffixes distinction: they are not crucial in distinguishing the ones from the others, but, rather, they should be considered valid criteria to identify classes of affixes which are more or less prototypical within each category. If the model we want to build is a scale of prototypicity, it is clear that we expect to observe gradual changes in the behavior of affixes as we pass to less prototypical classes. In relation with the two criteria we are dealing with now, the UOH and the categorizing power, we may argue that they are logically ordered, and thus propose a tripartite classification of derivational affixes: i) the most prototypical affixes (suffixes and prefixes) both have a categorizing power and follow the UOH. This is the case, for instance, of the great majority of suffixes (for instance, of – bile or –oso seen above), and of the so-called parasynthetic prefixes referred to above (in Italian a-, in- and partially s-, de- and dis-, which always form verbs from nouns or adjectives. more rarely from other verbs); ii) less prototypical are those affixes which do not strictly follow the UOH but have, at least sometimes, a categorizing power, like the spatiotemporal and quantitative prefixes showed in (13) and (14). Examples of suffixes to be put in this category are –ista (see above), and probably also the ethnic suffixes, which regularly construct both names and adjectives from geographical names; iii) the least prototypical affixes are those which are transparent with regard to the category they attach to and never have a categorizing power. This is the case of evaluative suffixes, and of those we could call ‘evaluative’ prefixes, for instance super- in veloce ‘fast’ → superveloce ‘super-fast’. It is also the case of those prefixes which have a more ‘lexical’ meaning, as vice-. It should be added that the classification I proposed may be supported by independent arguments. On a phonological point of view, for instance, prefixes of the first group always form a phonological word with the base they attach to, prefixes of the second group sometimes do, prefixes of the third group never do (cf. Nespor and Vogel (1986)). On a syntactic point of view, prefixes of the first class never correspond to an autonomous lexeme, while some prefixes of the second and of the third class correspond to autonomous words, most of all to prepositions (e.g. sotto-, dopo-, contro-)9. Another observation emerging from the proposed classification is that in general suffixes are more prototypical affixes than prefixes, which is a fact already observed by many scholars (for a recent account see Corbin (1999: 69-70)). This is certainly linked with the famous observation due to typological linguistics that in many languages suffixation is much more important than prefixation, and that there are many exclusively suffixing languages, but almost no exclusively prefixing languages (cf. Greenberg (1968)). The third observation linked with the proposed classification we may do is that we obviously expect more prototypical units to have regular behaviors, but the contrary is less sure. In order to classify a unit as more prototypical, it must possess a property, while units which are considered less prototypical are not forced not to 9 For a slightly different classification of prefixes on the basis of their resemblance to prepositions see Amiot (f.c.). possess that property. So, a unit like the adverbial suffix –mente, which is not prototypical on many regards (it is used to form adverbs, it requests inflection to be placed inside derivation) strictly follows the UBH and the UOH, for it always forms adverbs from quality adjectives. To conclude, it is clear that, as far as prototipicity diminishes, the importance of semantics and of pragmatic factors grows in determining the acceptability and the understanding of complex words. 4. Conclusion In this paper, I have tried to review a ‘classical’ principle of lexicalist morphology, the Unitary Base Hypothesis and its correlates on semantic grounds, and I have tried to show that too rigid principles are condemned to lose some interesting generalizations, while positing WFR essentially as conditions of well-formedness on the output permits to reintegrate into the theory many facts formerly excluded. Moreover, I have showed that principles which are intended to work for all units without distinctions are too powerful, and that internal divisions to WFR are crucial in order to account for some facts. It is likely that some other principles proposed by early lexicalist morphology, could be dealed in a way similar to the one proposed in this work. For instance, the so-called Uninflected Base Hypothesis, which states that inflectional affixes always follow derivational ones, fails to account for some phenomena as campagna antiimmigrati (‘anti-immigrates(PL) campaign’). These cases can be easily explained by means of a distinction between contextual and inherent inflection (Booij (1996)), of which only the latter may appear internally to derivation. This is another case in which semantics plays a crucial role, since it is obvious that only inherent inflection is the one which has a clearly identifiable semantic content. 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