The Bobaljik Lectures

CRISSP is happy to announce a three-day lecture series by Jonathan Bobaljik.

Lecturer: Jonathan Bobaljik (University of Connecticut)

Title: Features, Structure, and Locality in Words

Date & time: Wed March 19th (15.30-18.30), Thu March 20th (13.00-16.00),  Fri March 21st (9.00-12.00)

Participation: Participation is free, but those wishing to attend should register by sending an e-mail to marijke.debelder{AT}kuleuven{DOT}be.

Location: CRISSP/Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, T’Serclaes Building (Warmoesberg 26), room B-02-15.

  • Enter the T’Serclaes building (Warmoesberg 26).
  • Take the elevator to the second floor.
  • Turn left when you leave the elevator.
  • Room B-02-15 is on the right-hand side.


It appears there are robust, if abstract, generalizations about attested versus non-attested patterns of suppletion.  Though suppletion is a marginal phenomenon in any one language, it is common enough cross-linguistically to permit large-scale investigations. I explored some such patterns in detail in Bobaljik 2012 (Universals in Comparative Morphology), in particular, patterns arising in comparative and superlative morphology. For example, if an adjective undergoes suppletion in comparison, then both the comparative and superlative will be suppletive relative to the positive root, though they need not show the same suppletive root. Thus, we (generally) find patterns analogous to good-better-best (ABB with a shared root in the two non-positive grades), and Latin bonus-melior-optimus (ABC, with distinct roots in all three grades), but not *good-better-goodest (ABA) or *good-gooder-best (AAB) where only one grade suppletes. Bobaljik 2012 presents an extended argument that such patterns arise as a consequence of universal hierarchical structure (in this case, the representation of the superlative properly contains that of the comparative), within a theory of morphology in which phonological exponents realize the pieces of a prior, abstract, morphosyntactic representation (Distributed Morphology).

In these lectures, after reviewing the key pieces of those arguments, I present extensions of the reasoning to additional empirical domains where, unlike adjectival gradation, there is less clear semantic motivation to support the hierarchical structures that the morphology indicates. One topic is the question of locality and how the domain for morphological alternations is to be defined in morphosyntactic terms – specifically, drawing on joint work with Heidi Harley, I will present a revision of a locality condition presented in Bobaljik 2012, to admit of a limited range of morphological alternations across words, while preserving the empirical results in the adjectival domain. Another topic is the patterns of suppletion in pronouns (reporting on joint work with a research group here at UConn). These patterns have implications for the morphosyntactic representation of person, number and case, which will be drawn out to the extent possible, identifying points of convergence and divergence with other proposals in this area.