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Frequency Considerations in Morphology, Revisited – Finnish Verbs Differ, too

TitleFrequency Considerations in Morphology, Revisited – Finnish Verbs Differ, too
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsArppe A
Secondary AuthorsSuominen M, Arppe A, Airola A, Heinämäki O, Miestamo M, Määttä U, Niemi J, Pitkänen KK, Sinnemäki K
JournalA Man of Measure: Festschrift in Honour of Fred Karlsson on his 60th Birthday a special supplement to SKY Journal of Linguistics, vol 19:2006

In the mid-1980s Fred Karlsson published two papers in Eastern European linguistic journals, which have remained notoriously difficult to get hold of, but for the persistent researcher contain the seeds of a very interesting hypothesis worth further pursuit.
Karlsson’s argument in these papers was that different noun lexemes in Finnish prefer different inflectional forms on the basis of their basic meanings. Accordingly, they also prefer different individual morphological features associated with these forms (Karlsson 1985, 1986). Karlsson also argues that these preferences, designated as focal forms, would not be lexeme-specific, but would rather exhibit groupings according to some, rather general semantic classifications. In contrast, Karlsson suggests that Finnish verbs would not exhibit similar preferential differentiation based on their semantic groupings, and that they would in fact behave as one group, all sharing the same, single focal inflected form. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that Karlsson was probably both right and wrong, i.e. Finnish verbs do differ like nouns according to their semantic groupings, when their inflectional profiles are considered in their entirety with multivariate statistical techniques. However, Karlsson’s original stance may still hold when taken literally, i.e. Finnish verbs apparently do not exhibit other than idiosyncratic individual focal forms.