The comparative grammaticality of the English comparative
- The goal of this dissertation is to investigate systematic variation in English comparative adjective formation using the insights of lexical prosody and Optimality Theory. I provide a sustained argument in favor of lexically specified, representationally rich prosodic structure. Chapter 1 introduces comparative adjective variation (CAVE) in the context of morphological-periphrastic alternations in language and draws particular attention to comparative grammaticality as a theoretically appropriate solution to the systematic nature of CAVE. Chapter 2 provides an in-depth corpus analysis of spoken and written English from the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Alongside replicating several earlier results, the chapter provides evidence for the variable, systematic nature of suffixation to adjectives of different prosodic and morphological shapes. In Chapter 3, I make two major claims. First, I argue that morphemes can exhibit various degrees of prosodic strength, spelled out as differences in structure, an inherent property of morphemes as they are stored as Roots in an abstract lexicon. Second, I argue that token frequency influences prosodic strength through the direct modulation of prosodic structure; infrequent and phonotactically complex short adjectives are less likely to undergo reduction processes because of their more articulated prosodic structure. In contrast, frequently used adjectives have less articulated prosodic structure, which results in more reduction processes. These two claims set the basis for a representational difference between high- and low-frequency adjectives, which accounts for their divergent susceptibility to phonological reduction and phonetic shortening. Chapter 4 is concerned with spelling out the structure of the grammar of comparative suffixation. It divides the grammar into Stem and Word strata and argues that variable suffixation rates require both stratal and representational (morphological and prosodic) routes of explanation. In sum, variable suffixation results from the representational differences argued for in Chapter 3, as well as the dual-stratum membership of -er at the Stem and Word strata. A variety of adjective types are considered. Chapter 5 addresses comparative grammaticality at the level of syntax and sketches a preliminary analysis of how phrasal prosody may also affect suffixation rates, which has implications for the phonology-syntax interface and the degree to which lexical and syntactic information should be separated in linguistic theory. Chapter 6 concludes the dissertation, comparing present contributions to previous work on CAVE.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Adams, Matthew Edward
|Stanford University, Department of Linguistics.
|Statement of responsibility
|Matthew Edward Adams.
|Submitted to the Department of Linguistics.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2014.
- © 2014 by Matthew Edward Adams
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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