Spanish pseudoplurals: phonological cues in the acquisition of a syntax-morphology mismatch
Ricardo Bermudez-Otero
September 2006

Spanish has two types of nouns with homophonous singular and plural forms ending in /s/. In pseudoplural nouns like _Carl-o-s_, the number contrast is neutralized in the morphology: the syntactically singular form contains the plural marker /-s/. In athematic nouns like _virus_, the number contrast is neutralized in the phonology through a process of degemination. The distinction between pseudoplural and athematic nouns manifests itself only under stem-based evaluative suffixation: e.g. augmentative _Carl-ot-e_ vs _virus-ot-e_. However, children are almost never exposed to these crucial forms, which have vanishingly low token frequencies; instead, learners of Spanish acquire the pseudoplural/athematic distinction on the basis of language-particular parsing preferences motivated by morphological and phonological properties of the Spanish lexicon. The emergence of the Spanish pseudoplural nouns shows that, during language acquisition, the phonological properties of words can trigger syntax-morphology mismatches. This finding has significant implications for the syntax-morphology interface.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/000309
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: In Baerman, Matthew, Greville Corbett, Dunstan Brown & Andrew Hippisley (eds) (2007). Deponency and morphological mismatches (Proceedings of the British Academy). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 231-269.
keywords: syntax-morphology mismatch, deponency, defectiveness, ineffability, pseudoplural, athematic, root, stem, stem formative, theme vowel, infix, learnability, underdetermination, phonotactics, variation, corpus, google, phonology, morphology
previous versions: v1 [July 2006]
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