Munn Colloquium

June 6
Social Sciences 122
Michigan State University
Some observations on participle levelling

Levelling is a process in which one part of a morphological paradigm collapses into another. In English irregular verbs, levelling of the participle to the preterite is an ongoing process, e.g. "I could have ate more" vs. "I could have eaten more." and for many speakers such levelling does not appear to have a marked status. Levelling is often thought to be a kind of simplification process, and can be captured via impoverishment rules in Distributed Morphology (DM). However, there are various aspects of English participle levelling that suggest that the process, while leading to simplification in one area may lead to differentiation in another. In particular, there are syntactic constraints on the levelling which need to be accounted for. In this paper I will present some preliminary judgement data showing the basic pattern of levelling and discuss the syntactic analysis of the pattern in terms of DM. I'll then discuss what the consequences are for the grammar if a levelling pattern become grammaticalized, as is the case in Appalachian English.