Chapter 7: Stems as principal parts


We investigate the possibility that a lexeme's principal parts are a set of indexed stems that are used in the definition of its realized paradigm and that optimally distinguish its IC membership. In an inflectional system in which ICs are distinguished at the outer layer of a word's morphology, it is useful to regard principal parts as realized cells. Latin declensions are a case in point. The Latin declensions are distinguished by the terminations exhibited by their members; accordingly, the principal parts of a Latin noun are traditionally regarded as whole-word forms. In many systems, however, it is more useful to regard principal parts as indexed stems (stem forms that are indexed according to their distribution in a realized paradigm). In French, for example, nearly all verbs exhibit the same inflectional terminations, so a French verb's conjugation-class membership is distinguished not by the outer layer of its morphology, but by the modulation and alternation of its stems. In this chapter, we examine the consequences of this fact for the analysis of principal parts in French. We begin with a preliminary discussion of the morphology of French verbs; we draw attention to the fact that the number and identity of indexed stems that one postulates for a verb's paradigm depend on one's account of stem phonology. We accordingly distinguish two plats for the analysis of French verb morphology. One plat is speaker-oriented; its structure presupposes that a verb's indexed stems have underlying forms that are subject to manipulation by rules of sandhi. The other plat is hearer-oriented; its structure presupposes that the form of a verb's indexed stems is simply their superficial phonological form. We show that the analysis of a verb's theme and IC membership depends on whether one employs the speaker-oriented or the hearer-oriented plat. Using the methods developed in earlier chapters for analyzing implicative relations in realized paradigms, we examine the consequences of assuming that a French verb's principal parts are indexed stems. Our discussion includes static principal-part analysis, dynamic principal-part analysis, and cell and IC predictability measures. We then compare our French results with the results for other languages presented in earlier chapters. We investigate a different approach to the use of stems in principal-part analysis; this "stem-referral approach" is based on a plat in which a French verb paradigm's patterns of stem syncretism are directly encoded.