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Abstract Elsen

Between phonology and morphology

Usually, grammatical concepts work with clear-cut categories und rules to build complex linguistic units. The following paper deals with transitional phenomena and the relevance of holistic processing in lieu of and in addition to regular morphology and presents three sets of data from language acquisition, the special language of chemistry and names in fantasy and science fiction novels . They show first, that in addition to the analytic processing of individual sounds and morphemes the overall sound shape or Gestalt or schema seems to play a role. Second, there is a transition from sound shape to recurring groups of sounds to morphemes, that is, the borderline between phonology and morphology is not clear-cut.

Chemistry words often show endings which sound like morphemes, but which in fact are combinations of sounds without stable content, cf. -on, -ol, -in (Acerbon, Bindol, Agopton). Word formation techniques are word manufacturing, blending, shortening. The sound shape is phonotactically comparable with derivations like Adhäs-in, Alendron-at.

Fantastic names show different preferences for various word formation techniques, depending on referents. Names for buildings and waters often are compounds or Wortgruppenlexeme, discontinuous lexical items, cf. Roter Palast, Tempel des Toten Gottes, Katakomben der Letzten Nacht, Tausend-Bogen-Fluß, Asphaltsee, Meer der Trauer.

Names for substances are e.g. Molvedin, Ansintan, Valoron, Glysantin, Bulit, or Somnalin, Erosan, Amnesin. They match with trade names from chemistry in using pseudo-morphs like -it, -ol, -on, -in which sound scientific but do not carry a consistent meaning.

In names for persons, certain sound patterns are repeatedly associated with certain information patterns - this kind of systematicity is neither arbitrary nor morphologically regular. Potent magicians and druids, for example, carry names like Salamir, Galdalyn, Kalakaman. The forms sound like Latin or Greek foreign words with a scientific, reliable, efficient character. Evil alien characters are named Ch’tuon, Ghuzdan, Gnoorat, Chrekt-Orn, Trker-Hon, Rrul´ghargop or An-Rukhbar.

To conclude, we find a continuum from sound shape to recurring groups of sounds to morphemes. Not only individual sounds, but Gestalts seem to constitute a level in language processing. Morphological structure emerges during information processing. A purely grammatical view of word formation is obviously inadequate to capture these phenomena. We need an approach which takes into account frequency factors, holistic patterns and the fact that there is no clear-cut borderline between categories and between linguistic levels.