Productivity drives spreading: The case of Frisian past participles

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Productivity drives spreading:The case of Frisian past participlesAnne Merkuur1, Arjen Versloot2, Jan Don2, Eric Hoekstra11Fryske Akademy, 2University of AmsterdamIn this paper we study the rise of alternative forms of past participlesnext to the normative forms in Frisian. In Frisian, there are twoalternative types of past participles (type I and II) which both have theirorigin in the South-western dialect region of Fryslân (Hof, 1933;Boelens & Van der Woude, 1955; Fryske Akademy LanguageDatabases, 2009; Tiersma, 1999: 63-64). Only type I appears to bespreading productively across the whole language area (Goeman,Taeldeman & van Reenen, 1980; Van der Veen, 1980). This raises thequestion why the type I alternative is successful in spreading and thetype II alternative is not. Our study shows that the Tolerance Principle(Yang, 2005; 2016) makes the correct predictions in this respect.Type I involves a subclass of weak verbs, whereas type IIinvolves a subclass of strong and irregular verbs. Frisian has twoclasses of regular verbs (class I with an infinitive ending in - ə, class IIwith an infinitive ending in -jə), and quite a range of strong andirregular verbs. Past participles of weak class I verbs are marked withthe weak suffix -t or -d, as in (1) (norm). Alternatively, participles ofthis kind with a stem already ending in -t or -d are often extended withthe suffix common for strong verbs: -ən (alternative):1) Type I norm alternativeprate praat -t > praat prat-en[pra:tə] [pra:t] [pra:t-ən]talk.INF talk.PTCP talk-PTCPVice versa, monosyllabic past participles of strong verbs, whichnormally end in -(ə)n, sometimes get extended with the weak class Isuffix -t or -d, as shown in (2):2) Type II norm alternativesjen sjoen sjoen-d[ʃɛn] [ʃu.ən] [ʃu.ən-t]see.INF see.PTCP see-PTCPAlthough the natural existence of language contact between the Southwestand the rest of the language area in theory enables both of thesedialectical forms to spread outwards from this region, only those oftype I actually did. We therefore evaluate the competition between Book of abstracts – Morphology Days 2017 43these two morphological dialect variants and their ‘normal’counterparts, and argue that the difference in spreading must be due tothe present-day productivity of the underlying rules of both forms.After formulating these alternative rules, we studied their productivityby modelling the data along the lines of Yang’s Words over Rulesapproach (2002) and, more specifically, the Tolerance Principle (Yang,2005; 2016).The Tolerance Principle predicts the spread of the alternativesof type I, outwards from the South-western dialect region. Once Southwesternalternative forms are in one’s input, a productive rule can bederived. The Tolerance Principle thus models the two elements of theactual spreading scenario. First, the alternative forms of type I cannotarise independently - their spreading can only be the result of theencountering the South-western alternative forms. And, second, type IIforms remain dialectical variants, because their underlying rule neverreaches productive status. We therefore conclude that rule-productivityas defined by Yang (2005; 2016) is the key factor in determiningspreading patterns in situations of contact.ReferencesBoelens, Krine & Gosse van der Woude. De dialectatlas van Friesland.(Reeks Nederlandse Dialectatlassen), Vol 15. Antwerpen: DeSikkel, 1955.Fryske Akademy Language Databases. Taaldatabank FryskeAkademy. 2009. Accessed 2014-2016,, Ton (A. C. M.), Johan Taeldeman & Piet van Reenen. MANDdatabase. 1980. Accessed 2014-2015,, Jan Jelles. Friesche dialectgeographie. Den Haag: MartinusNijhoff, 1933.Tiersma, Pieter Meijes. Frisian reference grammar. Leeuwarden:Fryske Akademy, 1999.Veen, Klaas F. van der. “Praat my net fan praten!” In Coulonnade;Twa–en–tweintich FAriaasjes oanbean oan mr. dr. K. de Vries,edited by Philippus H. Breuker, Keimpe Sikkema & Klaas F. vander Veen, 122-130. Leeuwarden: Fryske akademy, 1980.Yang, Charles. "On productivity." Linguistic variation yearbook 5, no.1 (2005): 265-302.Yang, Charles. The price of linguistic productivity: How children learnto break the rules of language. MIT Press, 2016.
Periode23 nov 2017