Syncretism Distribution Modeling: Accidental Homophony as a Random Event
Uli Sauerland, Jonathan Bobaljik
January 2013

The morphological analysis of paradigms generally proposes a distinction between accidental and systematic homophony. No specific assumptions are usually made about the distribution of accidental homophony, though. Therefore current assumptions cannot prove satisfactorily what should be regarded as systematic in morphology. We propose that accidental homophony should be assumed to be a random event in the statistical sense with a constant probability across languages and across paradigms. This approach allows us to assign a likelihood to any actual typological distribution of syncretism given a morphological analysis. And by computing such likelihoods for a range of analyses, we can then apply maximum likelihood analysis to determine the best analyses. Hence, the statistical foundation allows us to empirically test morphological analyses that include accidental syncretism. In this paper, we primarily introduce the conceptual and mathematical foundations of a statistical modeling technique, Syncretism Distribution Modeling, and show how it overcomes the problem of accidental homophony. In addition, we apply the technique to show that person paradigms must involve both accidental homophony and systematic syncretism.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/001718
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Proceedings of GLOW in Asia IX 2012
keywords: linguistics, features, paradigms, universals, typology, morphology
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