Distributed Morphology: An Oratio pro Domo

Marijke De Belder, J. Don

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper we aim to explain and illustrate the theory of Distributed Morphology for non-specialists. The goal is to take away any misunderstandings and to provide some illustrations of the workings of the theory, mainly on the basis of data from Dutch. Distributed Morphology is a theory of morphology that embraces the so-called Separation Hypothesis: derivation – the forming of a new word by some abstract operation – is separated from affixation – the realization or spell-out of the abstract operation by the addition of some phonologically specified element. The means used by DM to implement the Separation Hypothesis is by late (after syntax) insertion of affixes. Furthermore, Distributed Morphology claims that there is no separate component of the grammar where word-formation takes place. The operations that form new words are the same operations that may create syntactic phrases. Starting from these fundamental claims, we go into some detail of the way Distributed Morphology accounts for different morphological patterns. The paper also points at some cognate, but alternative, approaches to word-formation and inflection. In particular, we briefly address Borer’s so-called exo-skeletal model, and the nanosyntactic approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-104
Number of pages30
JournalNederlandse Taalkunde
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


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