Network Core Mechanisms of Exponence

Carstairs, Andrew (1984)


(= Surrey 20) Inflectional homonymy appears to be constrained by: (a) the way morphosyntactic properties are realized, either cumulatively (e.g. with a single exponent for case and a single one for number) or simultaneously (e.g. with a single exponent expressing case and number both); (b) the distinction between syncretism (where one form realizes multiple morphosyntactic properties), and ‘takeover’ (where the form associated with one morphosyntactic property serves as the exponent for another). - Using data from Latin, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Russian, Lithuanian, German, Italian, Arabic, Hungarian, Finnish and Old Georgian, it is suggested that syncretism only occurs with simultaneous exponence, because only in such a system does homonymy decrease rather than increase inflectional complexity. Otherwise, inflectional homonymy must represent a ‘takeover’. (More extensively discussed in Carstairs 1987.) Carstairs, Andrew (1987) Allomorphy in inflection. London: Croom Helm. (Based on the PhD thesis London 1981) (=> Surrey 21) Discussion of the distinction between systematic and accidental homonymy. Syncretism and takeovers are defined in terms of ‘relevance’ (Bybee 1985): syncretism occurs where the morphosyntactic context is higher on the relevance hierarchy than the neutralized property, while takeovers occur where the morphosyntactic context is lower. Examples from Hungarian, Finnish, Italian, Georgian and Arabic.

authorCarstairs, Andrew
titleOutlines of a constraint on syncretism
journalFolia Linguistica


    author = {Carstairs, Andrew},
    year = {1984},
    title = {Outlines of a constraint on syncretism},
    journal = {Folia Linguistica},
    volume = {18},
    pages = {73-85},
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