Welcome to the Berkeley Linguistics Department! With the first linguistics department to be established in North America (in 1901), Berkeley has a rich and distinguished tradition of rigorous linguistic documentation and theoretical innovation, making it an exciting and fulfilling place to carry out linguistic research. Its original mission, due to the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and the Sanskrit and Dravidian scholar Murray B. Emeneau, was the recording and describing of unwritten languages, especially American Indian languages spoken in California and elsewhere in the United States. The current Department of Linguistics continues this tradition, integrating careful, scholarly documentation with cutting-edge theoretical work in phonetics, phonology and morphology; syntax, semantics, and pragmatics; psycholinguistics; sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics; historical linguistics; typology; and cognitive linguistics.

In the Spotlight

Optimal Construction Morphology

Sharon Inkelas and Gabriela Caballero (PhD 2008) are developing a theoretical production model of morphology, called Optimal Construction Morphology, whose aim is to predict the optimal combination of morphological constructions that can produce a word of a given target meaning in a given language. OCM builds on earlier theories such as Lexical Morphology and Phonology, A-Morphous Morphology, Paradigm Function Morphology, and Construction Grammar, synthesizing the contributions of realizational, item-based and cyclic morphological theories in novel ways. In OCM, each layer of morphology in a complex word is the winner of a competition. All the possible single morphological constructions that could combine with a given stem compete, in Optimality-theoretic fashion, to see which does the best job of bringing the word under construction into conformity with the target meaning. Thus far, Inkelas and Caballero have focused on the phenomena of blocking (worse blocks *badd-er and *worse-r) and its apparent opposite, multiple exponence (e.g. tol-d, in which the root and the suffix both mark past tense). The co-existence of anti-redundancy (blocking) and redundancy (multiple exponence) in morphology has long been a thorn in the side of morphological theories; OCM promises to illuminate this uneasy co-existence.

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