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JANET H RANDALL, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This thesis investigates the system governing complex morphological forms in English and the way in which this system is acquired. Theories to account for constraints on the complementation of derived forms have been developed by Carlson and Roeper (1980) and Roeper (1981b). In elaborating and critiquing these theories, we are led to reconsider morphologically complex items in terms of the operations by which they are derived, and the "lexical level" at which each of these operations takes place. In addition, a principle of morphological "Inheritance" is proposed. This principle determines when a derived form may inherit the complement structure of its base, given a defined measure of morphological "distance". Together, the theory of lexical levels and the Inheritance Principle account for the restrictions on complementation in derived forms. The question of how formal linguistic systems are acquired is one which theories of language acquisition address; the second part of this thesis examines the morphological proposals in this context. We formulate a learning model which incorporates the Inheritance Principle and a particular theory of Universal Grammar for derived morphological forms. Given this model, we are able to predict the types of overgeneralizations that learners make and the way in which these overgeneralizations are dropped; i.e. how learners retreat from overly general rules, without access to negative data. Systems which integrate linguistic theory, learnability models and empirical data about children's grammars allow us to develop theories of language in which issues raised by logical models and experimental findings can challenge and inform one another. This study is an effort toward this kind of integration.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

RANDALL, JANET H, "MORPHOLOGICAL STRUCTURE AND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION" (1982). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8229595.