Patrick O. Steinkrüger & Manfred Krifka (eds.), On inflection . (= Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 184). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. viii + 272pp. ISBN 978-3-11-018606-2.

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The term morphological reversal describes the situation where the members of a morphological opposition switch their functions in some context (as with Hebrew gender marking, where -Ø~-a marks masculine~feminine with adjectives but feminine~masculine with numerals). There is a long tradition of polemic against the notion that morphology can encode systematic reversals, and an equally long tradition of reintroducing them under different names (e.g. polarity, exchange rules or morphosyntactic toggles). An examination of some unjustly neglected examples (number in Nehan, aspect in Tübatulabal, tense in Trique and argument marking in Neo-Aramaic) confirms the existence of morphological reversal, particularly as a mechanism of language change. This is strong evidence for the separateness of morphological paradigms from the features that they encode.
Morphological productivity arises through a complex interaction between language structure, processing complexity and social convention. In Baayen (1989, 1991) I developed two complementary methods for the quantitative evaluation of this phenomenon. The first, and computationally most convenient method is to assess what Baayen and Lieber (1991) call the global productivity of a word formation process in terms of the number of different types V and the probability of encountering new types, P = n 1/N, where n 1 denotes the number of types with the required affix that occur only once (the so-called hapax legomena) and N the total number of tokens with this affix in some corpus. The number of types V was interpreted as a measure of the extent of use, P as a measure of the degree of productivity. Baayen and Lieber (1991) applied this method in detail to a representative sample of English derivational processes. They observed that the quantitative results obtained accorded reasonably well with intuitive judgements of productivity. The second, equally valid but computationally more costly method for evaluating morphological productivity proceeds in terms of estimates of the numbers of possible types S calculated on the basis of the frequency spectra of morphological categories.
Four lexical features of a noun are relevant to agreement: (i) semantic conditions on reference, (ii) person, number, and gender features of the referential index, (iii) concord features, and (iv) declension class. These four features are correlated by a chain of binary constraints. When individual constraints are violated, the chain is broken, resulting in intricate patterns of mixed agreement. Three main types of mixed agreement are predicted, all of them attested in Serbo-Croatian. This theory helps explain Corbett's (1983) crosslinguistic AGREEMENT HIERARCHY.
Gender is a fascinating category, central and pervasive in some languages and totally absent in others. In this new, comprehensive account of gender systems, over 200 languages are discussed, from English and Russian to Archi and Chichewa. Detailed analysis of individual languages provides clear illustrations of specific types of system. Gender distinction is often based on sex; sometimes this is only one criterion and the gender of nouns depends on other factors (thus 'house' is masculine in Russian, feminine in French and neuter in Tamil). Some languages have comparable distinctions such as human/non-human, animate/inanimate, where sex is irrelevant. No other textbook surveys gender across this range of languages. Gender will be invaluable both for class use and as a reference resource for students and researchers in linguistics.
Research into the phenomenon of morphological productivity, “the possibility for language users to coin, unintentionally, a number of formations which are in principle uncountable” (Schultink 1961), has mainly focused on the qualitative factors which jointly determine the productivity of word formation rules. It is well known that word formation processes are subject to various syntagmatic conditions. Booij (1977) develops a typology of such conditioning factors, distinguishing between rule-specific and rule-independent restrictions on the one hand, and between restrictions pertaining to phonological, stratal and syntactic characteristics on the other.1 The rôle of pardigmatic factors is discussed in van Marie (1985). He points out that (roughly) synonymous affixes tend to select their base words from complementary domains. Hence they can be analyzed as mutually affecting their respective degrees of productivity.
The inflexional paradigm, as a linguistic entity or concept, has not been a major preoccupation of theoretical linguists (at least in the English-speaking world) for several decades. For example, it is scarcely mentioned by Zellig Harris in his classic Methods in structural linguistics (1951). Nor have generative grammarians devoted much attention to it. Being interested originally in syntax, semantics and phonology to the almost total exclusion of morphology, they had no immediate incentive to reconsider such a squarely morphological concept. Quite apart from this, a positive reason for continuing to neglect, or reject, the paradigm seemed to flow from their approach to phonology. If phonological organization and phonological change were properly understood (they thought), then it could be seen that there was no need to invoke explicitly non-phonological factors such as ‘paradigm pressure’ or ‘analogical levelling’ in order to account for ‘exceptions’ to ‘sound laws’.(Received January 05 1982)
Among linguists the common sense interpretation of the phenomenon of morphological productivity reads something like: the property of morphological processes to give rise to new words. No doubt, many aspects of this common sense conception of morphological productivity are in need of more precise definition and further reflection. For instance, ‘which words can be considered “new”?’, ‘how many “new” words should a morphological process be able to produce in order to be called productive?’, ‘do all “new” words indicate that the morphological process underlying them should be called productive?’, ‘why is it that not all morphological processes possess this property and, if they do, why not to the same degree?’, ‘should the property of morphological processes to generate new words be considered to relate to the language system (the competence) or to the way this system may be put into use (the performance)?’, etc. etc.