Re: Corpora: Morphology and Word Length (was: Relatve text length)

From: Mike Maxwell (
Date: Fri Apr 26 2002 - 22:16:35 MET DST

  • Next message: Piotr Sobczak: "Re: Corpora: Relatve text length"

    In the context of word length in various languages, Tadeusz Piotrowski

    >Is there really any language-independent morphology?
    >I doubt it, and I recall that even for one language
    >there are conficting views on morphology, i.e. a word
    >has as many morphemes as the theory allows it.

    I'm not sure I completely understand this response, but--there are certainly
    lots of theories of morphology out there, and few of them are explicit about
    what constitutes a 'word'. This shows up particularly in decisions about
    practical orthographies, and also in computational treatments of languages
    which don't mark word boundaries (Chinese being a well-known example). Of
    course the fact that there may be differences or even conflicts among
    theories says nothing about whether the notion of 'word' is valid, nor about
    whether it can be defined. Some theories (or all theories we have now) are
    simply wrong.

    The other way to interpret this response, is that it is asking whether we
    would know how to mark word boundaries if we were suddenly given the correct
    theory of morphology, i.e. a description of what the mind does (assuming
    morphology is a distinct discipline, and that the notions of 'word' and
    'edge of word' are valid concepts). It's entirely possible that there would
    be situations in languages where the theory would _not_ decide, and that
    that's one of the causes of language change. (E.g. when a clitic in some
    language gets re-analyzed by speakers of following generations as an affix.)
    It's also possible that individual words are fuzzy objects, as Ken Pike

    Of course I don't claim to know the answer...

         Mike Maxwell
         Linguistic Data Consortium

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