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The interface between phonology and morphology

Morphology and phonology interact in Dutch in a number of ways. This interaction is referred to as ‘interface’: morphological information may play a role in the computation of the phonological form of words, and must therefore be visible to phonology, and phonological information concerning input forms may play a role in the application of morphological processes (see also Booij 1995, 1998, 2002, 2002). The following types of interaction occur:

  1. the morphological structure of a word co-determines its prosodic structure, and thus its phonetic realization; for instance, in compounds the word-internal morphological boundary coincides with a syllable boundary, as in balkanker balk-anker beam-brace, stock-anchor with the syllabification [ˈbɑlk.ɑŋ.kǝr] (compare balkanker bal-kanker [ˈbɑl.kɑŋ.kǝr] testicle cancer).
  2. the morphological structure plays a role in assigning stress patterns to complex words. For instance, in compounds main stress is on the first constituent as in tafelpoot [[tafel][poot]] [ˈta.fəl.pot] table-leg.
  3. in Dutch, both stems and affixes exhibit allomorphy, and the selection of an allomorph requires access to both phonological and morphological information. For instance, the choice between -er and -aar depends on the last syllable of the stem: -aar is selected after an unstressed syllable, -er elsewhere as illustrated by the words wandelaar [ˈʋɑndəlar] wanderer and loper [ˈlopər] runner.
  4. there are phonological output constraints on complex words. For example, the choice between the two competing nominal plural suffixes -s and -en is determined by the phonological requirement that a plural noun ends in a trochee. Hence, we get minimal pairs like kanons kanon-s [ˈkanɔns] canons versus kanonnen kanonn-en [kaˈnɔnən] guns.


For more information on the interface between phonology and morphology see also the following topics:

  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1998Prosodic output constraints in morphologyKehrein, Wolfgang & Wiese, Richard (eds.)Phonology and morphology of the Germanic languagesTübingenNiemeyer143-163
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert2002Prosodic restrictions on affixation in DutchBooij, Geert & Marle, Jaap van (eds.)Yearbook of Morphology 2001DordrechtKluwer183-202
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