About Prosodic Morphology
As a discipline with its focus on the interaction between prosody and morphology, prosodic morphology aims to explore how morphological changes and morphological processes are constrained by prosody. For example, why does Jia li fu ni ya (加利福尼亞), the Chinese transliteration of California, have to be read as [jia li#fu ni ya] instead of [*Jia #li fu #ni ya], [*Jia li #fu ni# ya] or [*Jia li# fu# ni ya]? Why can nian (年,year) be reduplicated as nian nian, while xingqi (星期,week) is unable to be doubled as *xingqi xingqi (*星期星期)? Why does “object-verb” inversion turn xiuche pu (修車鋪, garage) into the ungrammatical *chexiu pu (*車修鋪, garage), but render *xiuli qiche chang (*修理汽車廠, garage) grammatical (qiche xiuli chang,汽車修理廠, garage)? How does one account for the contrast between xiechang (鞋廠, shoe factory) and *xie gongchang (*鞋工廠, shoe factory), jiaocai bianxie (教材編寫, textbook compiling) and *jiaocai bian (*教材編, textbook compiling), shoutu shanshenmiao (收徒山神廟, to recruit students at a mountain temple) and *shoutudi shanshenmiao (收徒弟山神廟, to recruit students at a mountain temple)? Why are Chinese compounds minimally disyllabic and maximally trisyllabic? Why are the majority of Chinese idioms represented as four-syllable strings? The above “puzzles” instantiate the constraints that prosody imposes on morphology. Based on the principles of “prosodic hierarchy” and “foot binarity” in prosodic morphology, studies on the Chinese linguistic data have made remarkable theoretical contributions. It has been argued that foot, instead of stress, conditions morphological processes in Chinese; Chinese employs syllables to construct feet; a natural foot is disyllabic; standard feet (disyllabic), degenerate feet (monosyllabic) and super feet (trisyllabic) play different roles in morphology. Chinese prosodic morphology also derives the basic units “prosodic word” and “minimal word”, delimits the size of compounds, specifies the directionality of foot in morphology and syntax, identifies prosody as a morphological means, and explores the interaction between prosodic morphology and prosodic syntax. The breakthroughs in Chinese prosodic morphology have promoted research on Chinese languages by deepening the understanding of both synchronic and diachronic status of Chinese vocabulary. They have also advanced the development of general linguistics by filling the gap in compounding studies. Moreover, the important role of prosody in morphological processes, further revealed by Chinese prosodic morphology, will facilitate the exploration of interaction between different components in language.