Call for papers

BCGL 12: Suppletion, Allomorphy, and Syncretism

The Center for Research in Syntax, Semantics, and Phonology (CRISSP) of KU Leuven invites abstracts for the 12th edition of the Brussels Conference on Generative Linguistics (BCGL 12), to be held on 16-17 December 2019. The theme of the conference is the morphosyntax of suppletion, allomorphy, and syncretism.

Suppletion is a form of morphological irregularity whereby a change in a grammatical category triggers a change in word form, with a different (suppletive) root substituting for the normal one (e.g. in the past tense of go, the irregular form went replaces the regular goed). Allomorphy is (in a certain sense) the mirror image of suppletion, namely a change in the form of an affix that is triggered by the presence of a particular type of root (e.g with the root ox the irregular plural morpheme –en replaces the regular form –s). Both suppletion and allomorphy raise the question of how to get the correct distribution of forms: how to pair the correct root with the correct allomorph, and how to correctly restrict the occurrence of the suppletive roots. If all lexical insertion is done at terminal nodes, then suppletion and allomorphy point to some ‘action at a distance’: a head α influences the realisation of another head β (e.g. the V and the T node in the case of go + pst, the N and the Num node in the case of ox + pl). This raises the question of locality: how far apart can α and β be? A range of different views has been proposed in the literature, such as the claim that α and β are local if no overt node intervenes (Embick, 2010; Calabrese, 2015), if they form a span (Abels & Muriungi, 2008; Svenonius, 2016; Merchant, 2015; Haugen & Siddiqi, 2016), if they belong to the same phase (Moskal, 2013a; Embick, 2010; Moskal, 2015), if α is accessible to β (Moskal, 2013b; Moskal & Smith, 2016), if no XP or Xn (n > 0) intervenes (respectively Bobaljik 2012 and Bobaljik & Harley 2017), if no γ intervenes (Siegel, 1978; Allen, 1978; Embick, 2003; Bobaljik, 2012; Kilbourn-Ceron et al., 2016), or if they form a constituent (Caha, 2017a; De Clercq & Vanden Wyngaerd, 2017).

Syncretism is the identity of forms across different (but related) grammatical categories (e.g. the pronoun you is both 2sg and 2pl). Syncretism is widely believed to be informative about the underlying grammatical system, across a variety of approaches, whether typological (Haspelmath, 2003), formal (Caha, 2009; Bobaljik & Sauerland, 2013), or paradigm-based (McCreight & Chvany, 1991; Plank, 1991; Johnston, 1996; Wiese, 2008). Syncretism may accordingly be used to structure paradigms in such a way that syncretic cells are always adjacent, i.e. avoiding ABA patterns. Caha’s (2009) study of *ABA patterns in Case marking paradigms furthermore interprets syncretism in terms of structural containment: if the structure of the more complex Case suffixes properly contains that of the less complex ones, then *ABA follows. The study of syncretism in morphology in this approach translates into a study of underlying structural relationships.

We welcome contributions addressing suppletion, allomorphy, and/or syncretism in various formal models (Distributed Morphology, the Exo-Skeletal Model, Minimalist Morphology, Nanosyntax, etc.). Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What is the mechanism by which roots and affixes select one other? How are different classes of roots selecting different allomorphs represented in the lexicon? Can root size determine the selection of the allomorph (Caha et al., 2019)?
  • What is the boundary (if any) between suppletion and phonological readjustment of a root, e.g. in the pair givegave (Halle & Marantz, 1993; Embick & Marantz, 2008; Borer, 2003, 2013)?
  • Is root suppletion restricted to the functional part of the vocabulary, as claimed in Marantz (1997), or does it apply more broadly, as claimed by Haugen & Siddiqi (2013); Harley (2014) (but see Borer 2014)?
  • Is there a prefix/suffix asymmetry in allomorphy, and if so, why (Moskal, 2013a)?
  • Are there ways to derive *ABA patterns that do not rely on strict containment, as suggested in Bobaljik & Sauerland (2018); Caha (2017b)?
  • Which approach to deriving syncretism yields the best results, the one in terms of underspecification (i.e. the Subset Principle; Halle 1997), or the one in terms of overspecification (the Superset Principle; Starke 2009), or perhaps other types of approaches (e.g. McCreight & Chvany 1991)?
  • What are the locality conditions governing suppletion, allomorphy, and syncretism?

Invited speakers

  • Heidi Harley (U of Tucson, Arizona)
  • Hagit Borer (QMUL, London)
  • Michal Starke (Masaryk U, Brno)

Abstract guidelines

Abstracts should not exceed two pages, including data, references, and diagrams. Abstracts should be typed in at least 11-point font, with one-inch margins (letter-size; 8½ by 11 inch or A4) and a maximum of 50 lines of text per page. Abstracts must be anonymous and submissions are limited to 2 per author, at least one of which is co-authored. Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Please submit your abstract using the EasyChair link for BCGL 12:

Important dates

  • First call for papers: June 1, 2019
  • Second call for papers: August 16, 2019
  • Abstract submission deadline: September 15, 2019
  • Notification of acceptance: October 16, 2019
  • Conference: December 16-17, 2019

Conference webpage:


  • Abels, Klaus & Peter Muriungi. 2008. The focus particle in Kîîtharaka: Syntax and semantics. Lingua 118. 687–731.
  • Allen, Margaret Reece. 1978. Morphological Investigations. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut dissertation.
  • Bobaljik, Jonathan. 2012. Universals in comparative morphology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Bobaljik, Jonathan & Heidi Harley. 2017. Suppletion is local: Evidence from Hiaki. In Heather Newell, Máire Noonan, Glyne Piggott & Lisa Demena Travis (eds.), The structure of words at the interfaces. 141–159. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Bobaljik, Jonathan & Uli Sauerland. 2013. Syncretism distribution modeling: Accidental homophony as a random event. In Nobu Goto, Koichi Otaki, Atsushi Sato & Kensuke Takita (eds.), Proceedings of GLOW in Asia IX. 31–53. Mie, Japan: Mie University.
  • Bobaljik, Jonathan & Uli Sauerland. 2018.  *ABA and the combinatorics of morphological features. Glossa 3(1). 15.1–34.
  • Borer, Hagit. 2003. Exo-skeletal vs. endo-skeletal explanations: syntactic projections and the lexicon. In Maria Polinsky & John Moore (eds.), The nature of explanation. 31–67. Stanford, CA: CSLI.
  • Borer, Hagit. 2013. Taking form, vol. 3 Structuring Sense. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Borer, Hagit. 2014. Wherefore roots? (Response to Harley 2014). Theoretical Linguistics 40(3-4). 343–359.
  • Caha, Pavel. 2009. The nanosyntax of case. Tromsø: University of Tromsø dissertation.
  • Caha, Pavel. 2017a. Explaining Bobaljik’s root suppletion generalization as an instance of the adjacency condition (and beyond). In Joseph Emonds & Markéta Janebová (eds.), Language use and linguistic structure: Proceedings of the Olomouc linguistics colloquium 2016. 193–208. Olomouc: Palacký university.
  • Caha, Pavel. 2017b. How (not) to derive a *ABA: the case of Blansitt’s generalization. Glossa 2. 84.1–32.
  • Caha, Pavel, Karen De Clercq & Guido Vanden Wyngaerd. 2019. The fine structure of the comparative. Studia Linguistica .
  • Calabrese, Andrea. 2015. Locality effects in Italian verbal morphology. In Elisa Di Domenico, Cornelia Hamann & Simona Matteini (eds.), Structures, strategies and beyond: Studies in honor of Adriana Belletti. 97–132. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • De Clercq, Karen & Guido Vanden Wyngaerd. 2017. *ABA revisited: evidence from Czech and Latin degree morphology. Glossa 2(1). 69: 1–32.
  • Embick, David. 2003. Locality, listedness, and morphological identity. Studia Linguistica 57(5). 143–169. Embick, David. 2010. Localism versus globalism in morphology and phonology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Embick, David & Alec Marantz. 2008. Architecture and blocking. Linguistic Inquiry 39(1). 1–53.
  • Halle, Morris. 1997. Impoverishment and fission. In Benjamin Bruening, Y. Kang & Martha McGinnis (eds.), Papers at the interface, vol. 30 MIT Working Papers in Linguistics. 425 – 449. Cambridge, Mass.
  • Halle, Morris & Alec Marantz. 1993. Distributed morphology and the pieces of inflection. In Ken Hale & Jay Keyser (eds.), The view from building 20. 111–176. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 3
  • Harley, Heidi. 2014. On the identity of roots. Theoretical Linguistics 40. 225–276.
  • Haspelmath, Martin. 2003. The geometry of grammatical meaning: Semantic maps and crosslinguistic comparison. New Psychology of Language 2. 211–242.
  • Haugen, Jason D. & Daniel Siddiqi. 2013. Roots and the derivation. Linguistic Inquiry 44. 493–517.
  • Haugen, Jason D. & Daniel Siddiqi. 2016. Towards a restricted realization theory: Multimorphemic monolistemicity, portmanteaux, and post-linearization spanning. In Daniel Siddiqi & Heidi Harley (eds.), Morphological metatheory. 343–385. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Johnston, Jason. 1996. Systematic homonymy and the structure of morphological categories. Some lessons from paradigm geometry: University of Sydney dissertation.
  • Kilbourn-Ceron, Oriana, Heather Newell, Máire Noonan & Lisa Travis. 2016. Phase domains at PF. Root suppletion and its implications. In Daniel Siddiqi & Heidi Harley (eds.), Morphological metatheory. 121–161. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Marantz, Alec. 1997. No escape from syntax: Don’t try morphological analysis in the privacy of your own lexicon. In Alexis Dimitriadis, Laura Siegel, Clarissa Surek-Clark & Alexander Williams (eds.), University of Pennsylvania working papers in linguistics, vol. 4 2. 201–225. University of Pennsylvania.
  • McCreight, Katherine & Catherine Chvany. 1991. Geometric representation of paradigms in a modular theory of grammar. In Frans Plank (ed.), Paradigms: The economy of inflection. 91112. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Merchant, Jason. 2015. How much context is enough?: Two cases of span-conditioned stem allomorphy. Linguistic Inquiry 46. 273–303. Moskal, Beata. 2013a. A case study in nominal suppletion. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut dissertation.
  • Moskal, Beata.2013b. The curious case of Archi’s father. Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 39(1). 195–211.
  • Moskal, Beata. 2015. Limits on allomorphy: A case study in nominal suppletion. Linguistic Inquiry 46(2). 363 – 376.
  • Moskal, Beata & Peter W. Smith. 2016. Towards a theory without adjacency: hyper-contextual VI-rules. Morphology 26(3). 295–312. doi:10.1007/s11525-015-9275-y.
  • Plank, Frans. 1991. Rasmus Rask’s dilemma. In Frans Plank (ed.), Paradigms: The economy of inflection. 161–196. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Siegel, Dorothy. 1978. Topics in English morphology. New York: Garland Publishing.
  • Starke, Michal. 2009. Nanosyntax: A short primer to a new approach to language. Nordlyd 36. 1–6.
  • Svenonius, Peter. 2016. Spans and words. In Daniel Siddiqi & Heidi Harley (eds.), Morphological metatheory. 201–222. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Wiese, Bernd. 2008. Form and function of verb ablaut in contemporary standard German. In Robin Sackmann (ed.), Explorations in integrational linguistics. 97–151. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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