The Research Unit "Spoken Morphology" investigates the phonetics and phonology of morphologically complex words in English, German, Dutch and Maltese.
Spoken morphology, i.e. the pronunciation of morphologically complex words, poses two big challenges to theories of the mental lexicon and grammar. The first is the recent insight that supposedly categorical morpho-phonological alternations are much more variable than previously conceived. What is responsible for this variation, and how can models of grammar and the lexicon accommodate it? The second, and more general, challenge is to determine the role of morphological structure in the phonetic realization of words. Recently, there are conflicting findings whether (and if so, how) morphological structure influences the articulation and acoustics of complex words, and how this in turn influences comprehension. Research in this area thus has important implications for current theories of the mental lexicon and of speech production, perception and comprehension.
Research addressing these challenges is still in its infancy and the multifaceted nature of the phenomena calls for a cross-disciplinary approach, integrating approaches from articulatory phonetics, acoustic phonetics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, computational modeling and quantitative-theoretical linguistics. The DFG Research Unit is a cluster of closely related research projects directed by internationally renowned specialists from four universities.
An overarching aim of the Research Unit is the development of models of speech production and perception that take morphological structure and phonetic detail into account, and of theoretical-linguistic models of morphology-phonology interaction that are empirically and theoretically more adequate with regard to the phonetic and phonological variability observed in the data.