In intuitive terms to be sharpened below, the micromorphology hypothesis is the hypothesis that an affix can itself be morphologically complex. This is a widespread assumption in descriptive accounts of the morphology of individual languages; yet, with only the rarest exceptions (e.g., the proposals of Bauer 1988; Bochner 1992 and Luís & Spencer 2005), morphological theory has tended to reject this hypothesis, most often tacitly. My objective here is therefore threefold. I begin by characterizing the micromorphology hypothesis in more precise terms, exemplifying it with the analysis of nominal inflection in Noon (Niger Congo/Atlantic; Senegal) presented by Soukka (2000) and showing that in a rule-based conception of morphology, this hypothesis entails an operation of rule conflation similar (though not identical) to the operation of function composition in mathematics. I propose an inferential realizational morphological theory that implements the micromorphology hypothesis by incorporating the notion of rule conflation. I demonstrate its basic properties with regard to the Noon evidence. I survey several kinds of evidence that favor the conciliation of morphological theory with the micromorphology hypothesis and therefore necessitate a rather profound rethinking of the principles of morphotactics. I discuss a number of apparent morphotactic anomalies that can be readily accounted for by assuming that the default patterns of interaction among a language’s morphological rules can be overridden by the conflation of two or more rules. I conclude by discussing the wider implications of the micromorphology hypothesis for refining a theory of inflectional exponence, observing that rule conflation is only one of the ways in which current conceptions of the algebra of morphotactics must be improved upon.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Stump, Gregory, "Rule Conflation in an Inferential-Realizational Theory of Morphotactics" (2017). English Faculty Publications. 6.