April 27th: Carmen Saldana

Learning biases in paradigmatic and syntagmatic morphological relations

Carmen Saldana, University of Zurich

Tuesday, Apr 27 2021, 11:00-12:00 BST
Zoom Details: [Please Request]

Despite the astonishing variation that morphological structure displays cross-linguistically, there are certain patterns that reappear across many languages and others that are very rare or even unattested. My research focuses on exploring whether these cross-linguistic asymmetries can be explained by shared features of human cognitive systems. In this talk, I will present a series of artificial language learning studies which aim to test this hypothesised link in morphological structure both at the syntagmatic (i.e., morpheme order) and paradigmatic level (e.g., structure of inflectional paradigms). I will focus in particular on three cross-linguistic regularities: 1) affixes that belong to the same category tend to appear in the same syntagmatic slot, 2) affixes with stronger (structural) relationships to the stem tend to appear closer, and 3) patterns of syncretism in inflectional paradigms tend to reflect more natural partitions of the morphosemantic space. The results from the studies I will present suggest that these regularities across the languages of the world may be shaped by universal features of human cognition during language learning and transmission.