Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Folia Linguistica

Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae

Editor-in-Chief: Fischer, Olga / Norde, Muriel

4 Issues per year

Folia Linguistica
IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.312
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.578

CiteScore 2017: 0.55

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.349
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.093

Folia Linguistica Historica
IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.294
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.263

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Just Accepted


The indeterminacy of word segmentation and the nature of morphology and syntax

Haspelmath Martin
Published Online: 2017-07-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flin-2017-1005


The general distinction between morphology and syntax is widely taken for granted, but it crucially depends on a cross-linguistically valid concept of ‘(morphosyntactic) word’. I show that there are no good criteria for defining such a concept. I examine ten criteria in some detail (potential pauses, free occurrence, mobility, uninterruptibility, non-selectivity, non-coordinatability, anaphoric islandhood, nonextractability, morphophonological idiosyncrasies, and deviations from bi-uniqueness), and I show that none of them is necessary and sufficient on its own, and no combination of them gives a definition of ‘word’ that accords with linguists’ orthographic practice. ‘Word’ can be defined as a language-specific concept, but this is not relevant to the general question pursued here. ‘Word’ can be defined as a fuzzy concept, but this is theoretically meaningful only if the continuum between affixes and words, or words and phrases, shows some clustering, for which there is no systematic evidence at present. Thus, I conclude that we do not currently have a good basis for dividing the domain of morphosyntax into morphology and syntax, and that linguists should be very careful with general claims that make crucial reference to a cross-linguistic ‘word’ notion.

Keywords: word; clitic; affix; morphology; syntax; morphosyntax; lexical integrity

About the article

Received: 2010-03-31

Revised: 2010-05-23

Accepted: 2010-06-25

Published Online: 2017-07-25

Citation Information: Folia Linguistica, Volume 51, Issue s1000, Pages 31–80, ISSN (Online) 1614-7308, ISSN (Print) 0165-4004, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flin-2017-1005.

Export Citation

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in