On the visibility of word-internal morphological features

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In this paper I argue that word-internal morphological features can be visible. I present a case from Hebrew, where plural formation of feminine diminutive nouns is blocked due to features associated with an internal suffix. The feminine diminutive form yaldónet 'little girl' consists of a base yeled 'boy', a diminutive suffix -on, and a feminine suffix -et; -on is specified for [-Fem] and -et for [+Fem]. The plural suffixes in Hebrew are subcategorized for gender, -ot for [+Fem] and -im for [-Fem]. I argue that diminutive forms such as yaldónet cannot be pluralized because -im conflicts with the gender of -et, and -ot with the gender of -on. While the conflict with -et is expectable, the one with -on can be explained only if the gender of the internal suffix is visible. There are, however, cases where word-internal suffixes are not visible. These suffixes, unlike the visible suffix -on, are noncompositional. I thus propose to view words as consisting of compositional and noncompositional morphological domains; only suffixes in a compositional domain can be visible word-internally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-316
Number of pages28
Issue number348
StatePublished - 1997


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