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Implicational models

An implicational perspective spans the western grammatical tradition, as one of the first conceptions to be articulated and one of the last to be formalized. Classical advocates of‘analogy’ saw morphological systems as exhibiting a kind of‘organized complexity’ (Weaver 1948), emerging from regular patterns of accidence and cooccurrence. Proponents of ‘anomaly’ viewed the irregularity and randomness of morphological systems as exhibiting ‘disorganized complexity’. Both conceptions were incorporated in a qualified form in what became the classical WP model. A high degree of system-level congruence was associated with inflectional patterns, while irregularity and variation were treated as characteristic of lexical inventories and, to the extent that they were distinguished, patterns of word-formation. The organized complexity of inflectional systems lent itself to economical factorization. A collection of exemplary items enumerated the distinctive patterns of inflection in a language, while a set of diagnostic forms associated each non-exemplary item with one of the patterns. The disorganized complexity exhibited by the word stock of a language and word formation processes were then listed in grammars and dictionaries.

The classical WP model survives in this exemplar-based form until the present day, remaining, as Hockett remarks in the passage on p. 5 “the traditional framework for the discussion of Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and a good many more modern familiar languages”. The cornerstone of this framework is a conception of organized complexity that derives from the observation “that one inflection tends to predict another” (Matthews 1991:197). The role of interdependencies underlies the conception of an integrated morphological system that is more than a collection of individual forms and patterns. The notion that the words assigned to inflectional paradigms and classes “are themselves the parts within a complex whole” (Matthews 1991:204) clearly anticipates the characterization of organized complexity as arising from “a sizable number of factors which are interrelated into an organic whole” (Weaver 1948:539).

Although a complex system perspective is implicit in the descriptive practices of classical grammars, the underlying conception is never explicitly formalized in this tradition. Interdependencies are exhibited by the forms of exemplary items, or encapsulated in the classes represented by these items. Within the philological traditions that grew up around individual languages and language families, there was often a consensus regarding the implicational structure of a language, as reflected in the number of classes recognized in a language and the choice of diagnostic forms. But this type of consensus largely reflected convergent descriptive or pedagogical goals. Classical WP models never developed strategies for abstracting implicational dependencies from the forms that exhibit them. There are likewise no

Word and Paradigm Morphology. First edition. James P. Blevins © James P. Blevins 2016. First published 2016 by Oxford University Press procedures for selecting diagnostic forms, individuating classes, or for measuring the informativeness of forms. This shortcoming encouraged the view that the problem of selecting principal parts was intrinsic to, or possibly even recalcitrant within, classical models. The same issue recurs in a different guise in the problem of distinguishing valid from spurious analogies. Both relations depend on a notion of ‘informativeness’ that measures how reliably one element identifies another.

 
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