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Understanding and Measuring Morphological Complexity$
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Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, and Greville G. Corbett

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723769

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723769.001.0001

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Patterns of syncretism and paradigm complexity: The case of Old and Middle Indic declension

Patterns of syncretism and paradigm complexity: The case of Old and Middle Indic declension

Chapter:
9 Patterns of syncretism and paradigm complexity: The case of Old and Middle Indic declension
Source:
Understanding and Measuring Morphological Complexity
Author(s):

Paolo Milizia

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723769.003.0009

Using the development of the inflection of ‐a‐ adjectives in Old and Middle Indic as a case study, this chapter aims to argue that those phenomena of synchronic syncretism (i.e. inflectional homonymy) that are interpreted in structuralist terms as instances of the Br{\o}ndalian Principle of Compensation are better understood in terms of tendencies concerning the relative frequency of exponents. In particular, according to the interpretation here proposed, syncretism is favoured with paradigm cells that have a low relative frequency, i.e. cells that in inflectional systems making use of cumulative exponence are associated with rare combinations of morphosyntactic properties. This fact, in turn, may be seen as a result of restrictions on the information load of exponents. A general cross-linguistic dispreference for exponents whose relative frequency is significantly lower than the average is hypothesized, and information theoretic quantities based on entropy and redundancy are proposed as heuristic indicators of the degree of compliance with it.

Keywords:   syncretism, inflectional homonymy, cumulative exponence, Sanskrit, Old Indic, Middle Indic, information theory, entropy, redundancy

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