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Linguistic Inquiry

Winter 2019, Vol. 50, No. 1, Pages 197-218
(doi: 10.1162/ling_a_00303)
© 2018 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
On the Difference between the Lexicon and Computation (Regarding Slavic Yers)
Article PDF (523.84 KB)
Abstract
This article discusses three concerns regarding Becker and Gouskova’s (2016) analysis of Russian yers that relies on cluster-based yer vocalization and two sublexicons (morphemes with and without yers), to which lexically specific constraints refer. First, it misses the basic generalization about Slavic yers expressed by the established analysis (Lower): yer vocalization is triggered by five different mechanisms, instead of one mechanism under Lower. It is further shown that the major objection against Lower disappears when the existence of final empty nuclei is recognized. Second, Becker and Gouskova confound generalizations about the lexical distribution of yers in morphemes and the computational mechanism that decides which yers appear on the surface. They argue that Lower was established before relevant cluster-based generalizations were discovered, hence misses out on relevant empirical material that invalidates its central idea, that clusters are irrelevant for yer vocalization. However, the phenomena their argument is based on do not concern yer vocalization (computation): they are lexical in kind and therefore confirm the irrelevance of clusters for yer vocalization, supporting Lower. Third, although generalizations about yer-deletion-created clusters are central for Becker and Gouskova’s analysis, they are irrelevant for learners (children or adults). The authors’ experimental evidence precisely shows that speakers are happy to lexicalize and compute sequences (such as yerCC) that are absent from the lexicon. The gaps at hand are thus accidental, rather than systematic.