Gradient Harmonicity in Compounds

Péter Rebrus, Miklós Törkenczy


Some recent approaches to morphological complexity (e.g. Hay 2001, Hay & Baayen 2005) claim
that (i) morphological complexity is gradient so that even different forms that share the same affix
may differ in complexity and (ii) a frequency-dependent measure of complexity is appropriate for
capturing these differences. In this paper we argue that this approach can explain the unusual
harmonic behaviour some compounds and compound-like words in Hungarian which unexpectedly
show variation or unexpectedly do not show variation in palatal suffix harmony. We argue that this
unusual harmonic behaviour is due to the fact that “compoundness” is gradient and put forward
a measure of compound complexity based on the relative frequency of a compound and its


Compounds; Gradience, Frequency; Vowel Harmony; Variation; Hungarian

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