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Construction-dependent morphology
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Construction-dependent morphology is the phenomenon that the occurrence of bound morphemes is required by specific syntactic constructions. For instance, the suffix –s is used as a marker on the head word in partitive constructions of the type iets leuk.ssomething nice. The suffix thus functions as the morphological marker of the partitive construction. Dutch has a number of constructions that are characterized by such a specific morphological marker.

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Construction-dependent morphology is the phenomenon that the occurrence of bound morphemes is required by specific syntactic constructions with a semantics that is idiomatic or opaque. In Dutch, in particular suffixes show the effect. For instance, in partitive constructions of the type iets groot.ssomething large, the suffix –s is used as a marker on the head word.

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In most parts of the Netherlands, the suffix -s is obligatory in the partitive construction, in large areas of Dutch-speaking Belgium, it is optional: there one finds the variant iets grootsomething large as well.

The suffix thus functions as the morphological marker of the partitive construction. In a sense, syntactic agreement is also a case of context-dependent morphology; e.g., a plural subject typically combines with a verbal form that is marked with plural verbal morphology.

The following cases of construction-dependent morphology are discussed:

  1. the partitive-construction (e.g. iets leuk.ssomething nice) is treated in the context of the discussion of case.
  2. possessor marking (e.g. moeder.s hoedmother's hat) - with a genitive suffix s that was originally masculine, but that is found nowadays with feminine nouns as well - is treated in the context of the discussion of case.
  3. the genitive definite article der (feminine and plural). Scott (2014) shows there to be a historical tendency towards its usage with arguments that are either plural or have a feminine suffix, as in het rijk der fabelenthe realm DET.GEN fablesthe realm of fiction and het probleem der overbevolkingthe problem DET.GEN overpopulationthe problem of overpopulation. It is treated in the context of the discussion of case.
  4. other remnants of the defunct case system, used in new constructions (e.g. dat is niet des VVDsthat is not DET.M.GEN VVD.GENthis is atypical for the (political party) VVD) are also treated in the context of the discussion of case.
  5. pluralization of numerals: honderden boekenhundred.PL book.PLhundreds of books, het schip brak in vierenthe ship broke in four.PLthe ship broke up in four parts, wij zessenwe six.PLwe six, ze zijn met zijn achtenthey are with their eight.PLthey are eight are treated in the context of numerals.
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    This phenomenon is also found in certain expressions denoting time (Levelt 2006), e.g. na vierenna vier-enafter four-enafter four o'clock and tegen achtentegen acht-enagainst eight-eneightish. Given that this is also possible with the number eenone, it is hard to maintain that we are uniformly dealing with (semantic) plural. And this, in turn, sheds new light on the case of zevenseven: the normal plural is with -s: zevenssevens, but in this type of construction we find -en: rond zevenenrond zeven-enround seven-ensevenish, met zijn zevenenwith his seven-enin a group of seven.

  6. diminutives of numerals, that only occur in constructions such as in zijn eentjein his one-DIMall by himself and met zijn drietjeswith his three-DIM-sthe three of them, are also treated in the context of numerals.

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The issue of construction-dependent morphology is especially relevant in theoretical discussions concerning the architecture of the grammars of natural languages. E.g., Booij (2005) argues that these are not simple cases of case-marking and shows "that there are syntactic constructions that can only be properly accounted for if the word-internal structure of one the word slots of those constructions is specified. That is, we have to allow for access of syntax to word-internal morphological structure. It is obvious that syntax needs access to morphological properties of words. For instance, the rule of subject-verb agreement refers to the morphological property of singular/plural. However, normally it does not matter how exactly the relevant morphological property is expressed. In the case of construction-dependent morphology, however, we have to refer to specific suffixes, such as the suffix -en in the collective construction wij zevenen. The plural form zeven-s is incorrect here, and therefore the requirement of the specific plural suffix -en being present must be specified." "Hence, the part of the Lexical Integrity hypothesis that forbids syntax to have access to word-internal structure appears to be incorrect. These facts also speak against the theory of A-morphous Morphology (Anderson 1992) that claims that word-internal structure is not visible, neither for morphological operations nor for syntax."

References:
  • Anderson, Stephen R1992A-morphous morphologyCambridge UKCambridge University Press
  • Booij, Geert2005Construction-dependent morphologyLingue e Linguaggio431-46
  • Levelt, Willem J.M2006Met het oog op de tijdRadboud University
  • Scott, Alan2014The Genitive Case in Dutch and German. A Study of Morphosyntactic Change in Codified LanguagesLeidenBrill
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