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MOR-PHON Report Summary

Project ID: 695481
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MOR-PHON (Resolving Morpho-Phonological Alternation: Historical, Neurolinguistic, and Computational Approaches)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The project MORPHON is examining the way in which words are put together and how related words can differ. Related words such as revére ~ réverence differ with respect to where the main prominence falls on the word and how the vowels differ. The verb revere has a stressed [iː] as in the word bee while the noun reverence has the vowel shape [ɛ] which is the same vowel in bay.
The opaque phonological relationship between morphologically related forms has been a longstanding challenge in theoretical, historical, psycho- and neuro-linguistics, and computational
linguistics alike. Morpho-phonological alternations of all kinds have been analysed across the
languages of the world; but fundamental questions have remained controversial or indeed unasked:

▪ Why do they exist in the first place and why are they so widespread?
▪ How do they come about and what is their diachronic time-course?
▪ How are they represented in mental lexicons and how are they processed?

What distinguishes our approach is that we combine expertise in (a) theoretical and typological
linguistics, (b) brain-imaging methods, and (c) computational modeling to shed light on our
questions concerning the existence and cross-linguistic incidence of morpho-phonological
alternations, their diachronic profiles, their processing and mental representation

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

So far the project has focused on the internal structure of words including affixation and compounding under three broad areas:
A) Structure of affixation, morphological complexity and processing (Bengali, English, German).
B) Morphophonological alternations (including metrical patterns) and role of affixation in loans in Germanic (English, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian).
C) Compounding: conflicts between phonological and lexical word formation.

With respect to (A), we have experimentally examined morphological complexity in Bengali, English and German. The psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic tasks have included EEG, fMRI and eye-tracking. The results suggest that morpheme complexity and constraints on morpheme sequences play a definite role in processing. For (B), we have considered the notion of pertinacity formulated earlier by the PI in terms of the way analogical extensions and prosodic word constraints interact. We have been focusing on the medieval stages of English, Dutch and German. For (C), our results support the idea that compounding in English and Bengali carry similar lexical and morphological properties, but prosodically, the outputs can be very different.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

In all, the PI as well as the members of the team have given 21 talks (invited as well as at conferences where we submitted abstracts). The presentations were made at various linguistic conferences across the world including Toronto (Canada), Canberra (Australia), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Berkeley (USA), New Delhi (India), Zurich (Switzerland) as well as at several universities across the UK. Across experimental designs and in historical linguistics, we find that complexity in linguistic morphological structure plays a very important role in processing and change. Work is proceeding according to the original plan and we are continuing to explore novel experimental methods to address different types of morphological complexities.
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