• András Kornai
Part of the Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing book series (AI&KP)

Morphology, the study of the shape and structure of words, is a field that brings into sharp relief what are perhaps the most vexing aspects of linguistics from a mathematical perspective: radical typological differences, flexible boundaries, and near-truths. Mild typological differences are common to most fields of study. For example, the internal organs of different primates are easily distinguished by experts yet differ only mildly, so that a person who knows something about gorillas and knows human anatomy well can make a reasonable guess about the position, shape, size, and functioning of gorilla livers without ever having seen one. Radical typological differences are much less common. Continuing with the analogy, one knowledgeable about the internal sex organs of males but not of females would have a hard time guessing their position, shape, size, or functioning. In morphology, radical typological differences abound: no amount of expert knowledge about Modern English is sufficient to make a reasonable guess e.g. about the case system of Modern Russian, in spite of the fact that the two languages descended from the same Indoeuropean origins. Mathematics, on the whole, is much better suited for studying mild (parametric) typological differences than radical ones.We exemplify the problem and discuss a possible solution in Section 4.1, which deals with prosody in general and the typology of stress systems in particular.


Primary Stress Lexical Category Prosodic Word Voiceless Stop Vocabulary Growth 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • András Kornai
    • 1
  1. 1.MetaCarta Inc.CambridgeUSA

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