Deriving the English Noun

Linguistics 323



Let us start with extracting from the underspecified lexical of the noun book the features of Count and Plural:

First, let us suppose that the Nil feature Plural is specified as [+Pl], a rule occurrin in the syntax of the lexicon that forces the noun to agree with a quantiifier, in this case a quantifier greater than 1, lets say two. The Nominal Plural Suffix Rule specifies that the grammatical feature [+Pl] is realized a suffix by formally change the subfeature [NIL Suf] to [+Suf]:


The Nominal Plural Suffix Rule specifies that the default for the feature [+Pl] in English is marked with the feature [+Suf]:

The Suffix Formation Rule specifies that the features enclosed with [+Suf] are realized as a suffix and that the remaining features are realized as a stem; both are dominated by the category of the entry:

Plural Plural Spell_out Rule specifies that the suffix is orthographically spelled out as "s" and phonologically spelled out as /îz/. Phonological rules determine that /iiz/ is realized phonetically as [s] ([bË:ks]):


Now lets look at the entry for oxen. The lexical entry for OX specifies that [+Pl, +Suf] is spelled out as "-en". Since [+Pl] is marked as a suffix by a default rule, all that we need to do in the lexicon is to indicate that [+Pl, +Suf] is spelled out as "en". Once "en" is passed to the suffix, it cannnot be replaced with "s":

Things are a bit more complicated for the plural of child, which is formed with the stem extender "-r-". The lexicon must include information that "-r-" is adjoined to the base CHILD in the context of [+Pl].

In the second type of irregular nouns, the feature [+Pl] is not realized as a suffix. Hence, it is marked in the lexicon as [-Suf]. Furthermore, it cannot be realized as any kind of affix, so marking the feature as [-Affix] is all that is required here. [+Suf] infers [+Affix]. Consider goose and its plural geese. 'geese' is marked as GOOSE, [+Pl]. It is a compound grammatical morpheme. That is GOOSE+[+Pl] is spelled out as "geese". Tahbe question is how to indicate this in the lexicon. One way is simplty to list both forms in the lexicon:

 GOOSE   lexical form
 GEESE  [+Pl]

However, there is another way to mark this. Note that GOOSE and GEESE share G...SE. However, we need to mark GEESE as a morpheme, as it is this form that regular forms are built on:

goose step, goose egg, goose feather, to goose (verb) (*geese step, *geese egg, *geese feather, *to geese).

Lexical rules are performed in the lexicon. They apply to underspecified feature matrices (NIL features) filling them derived fully specified feature matrices. All we need do here is let the lexicon contain a rule that replaces the stem vowels with another one: OO --> EE / ____[+Pl]; morphophononemically: /u/ --> /i/ / ___ [+Pl]. The underspecified entry:

The fully specified entry:

If the plural form is the same as the singular, the noun is like the above except that there is no change of the root vowel; e. g. deer, which is both singular and plural:

The remaining class of irregular nouns in English include nouns borrowed from Greek and Latin: radius, radii; formula, formulae, stratum, strata. In this class, the feature [-Pl] is irregularly spelled out as [+Suf]; e.g. the stem RADI+[-Pl] --> RADI+US = radius. The underspecified entry is:

The two fully specified entries are:

This page last updated 7 NO 99