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Dataset Open Access

Dataset: The plural interpretability of German linking elements ("Morphology")

Schäfer, Roland; Pankratz, Elizabeth

This dataset accompanies a paper to be published in "Morphology" (JOMO, Springer). Under the present DOI, all data generated for this research as well as all scripts used are stored. The paper itself is not CC-licensed, refer to Springer's "Morphology" website for details!


In this paper, we take a closer theoretical and empirical look at the linking elements in German N1+N2 compounds which are identical to the plural marker of N1 (such as -er with umlaut, as in Häus-er-meer 'sea of houses'). Various perspectives on the actual extent of plural interpretability of these pluralic linking elements are expressed in the literature. We aim to clarify this question by empirically examining to what extent there may be a relationship between plural form and meaning which informs in which sorts of compounds pluralic linking elements appear. Specifically, we investigate whether pluralic linking elements occur especially frequently in compounds where a plural meaning of the first constituent is induced either externally (through plural inflection of the entire compound) or internally (through a relation between the constituents such that N2 forces N1 to be conceptually plural, as in the example above). The results of a corpus study using the DECOW16A corpus and a split-100 experiment show that in the internal but not external plural meaning conditions, a pluralic linking element is preferred over a non-pluralic one, though there is considerable inter-speaker variability, and limitations imposed by other constraints on linking element distribution also play a role. However, we show the overall tendency that German language users do use pluralic linking elements as cues to the plural interpretation of N1+N2 compounds. Our interpretation does not reference a specific morphological framework. Instead, we view our data as strengthening the general approach of probabilistic morphology.

Roland Schäfer's work on this project was funded by the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), personal grant SCHA1916/1-1.
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