Workshop description

This workshop aims at discussing morphological productivity from the viewpoints of different theoretical frameworks. Specifically, we want to shed more light on how different frameworks account for cases of derivational morphology that seem to be ‘semi-productive’, i.e. cases in which a morphological derivational process has lost part of its productivity, but is not yet completely unproductive, as evidenced by the fact that speakers can still create neologisms with that derivational process, even though this rarely happens. How can we account for such semiproductive morphological processes? What can we learn from them regarding the architecture of the lexicon, the lexicon-morphology interface, and about morphological variation and change? The talks in this workshop will reflect on these questions from the viewpoint of different theoretical frameworks, in order to learn from one other’s point of view, and to make advancements in our collective understanding of morphological productivity and the lexicon-morphology interface.

As a concrete example of the kinds of phenomena and questions we have in mind, consider verbal diminutives in (varieties of) Dutch and Afrikaans (cf. Weidhaas & Schmid (2015) on German; Audring et al. (2017) on Dutch). In Germanic, there are two verbal diminutive suffixes, -el and -er. These morphemes indicate that an event is iterative or attenuative. Some Dutch examples are huppelen ‘to skip (repeatedly)’, krabbelen ‘to scratch lightly’, stuiteren ‘to bounce (repeatedly)’, and dobberen ‘to float while rocking lightly’. Whereas the first three verbs have a lexical verbal base in Modern Dutch (huppen ‘skip/jump’, krabben ‘scratch’ and stuiten ‘bounce’), the majority of the Dutch verbs containing a verbal diminutive suffix do not. And yet, for Dutch speakers the semantic contribution of the morphemes is still very clear, and occasionally a neologism is formed (e.g. sportelen ‘to do sports recreationally (especially by elderly people)’, based on the verbal base sporten ‘to do sports’) – see also Audring et al. (2017) for relevant discussion. Is the small set of cases in which the verbal diminutive has a verbal base in the language enough for the language acquirer to conclude that this is a productive morphological process? And if so, why are neologisms so few and far between? If this morphological process is represented in the lexicon, how are the verbal diminutives with an existing verbal base connected to those without a verbal base? Should morphological productivity be seen as a continuum, and if so, how does such a continuum relate to one’s model of derivational morphology?


Audring, J., Booij, G. and Jackendoff, R. 2017. Menscheln, kibbelen, sparkle. Verbal diminutives between grammar and lexicon. Linguistics in the Netherlands 2017, 1–15.

Weidhaas, T. and Schmid, H.-J. 2015. Diminutive verbs in German. Semantic analysis and theoretical implications. Morphology 25(2). 183–228