Speaker Series: Jonathan Bobaljik (U-Conn)

Oct 12, 2017 at - | Stiteler Hall, B21


Morphosyntactican Jonathan Bobaljik (University of Connecticut) begins this semester's Speaker Series in Stiteler Hall B21 at 3:30 P.M. His talk is entitled "Morphological Universals, Features, and Structures." An abstract for the talk can be found on the bottom of this page.


Stitler Hall is located between Walnut and Locust at 208 S. 37th St. Information about its location and layout can be found here:



Doctor Bobaljik's professional site can be found here:



Bobaljik (2012 - Universals in Comparative Morphology) presents and defends a set of generalizations about suppletion in comparative adjectives robust enough to contend as linguistic universals. We find analogues of good - better - best, but not patterns like good - better - goodest. The explanation offered in that work led to the postulation of sometimes hidden morpho-syntactic structure even in simple words, ending with the suggestion that such structure is motivated by universal limits on functional morphemes. The explanation of why patterns like *good-better-goodest do not occur provides us with a template for looking for structure in words in domains not investigated earlier from this perspective. Armed with this 'structure-detector', we will look at other domains, including a large survey of pronominal paradigms (Smith, Moskal, Xu, Kang, and Bobaljik, submitted). In pronouns too we find that some patterns of suppletion for case and number are widely attested, while others are virtually unattested. The conclusions developed on the basis of adjectives lead us to posit hidden structure in pronouns as well, as an explanation for apparent universals. To some extent, this requires a reconsideration of existing proposals for the representation of number and the relationship between dual and plural. After presenting this argument, I contrast the structural approach with a new perspective (Bobaljik and Sauerland, submitted) on how morphological feature inventories may be defined without a priori notions of what the features are. Under this approach, *ABA can be seen as a special case of a more general restriction in certain contexts, arising from the combinatorics of features but without structure. I discuss some ways in which these approaches differ, and possible considerations to distinguish them.