A comparison of roots as units of analysis in Modern Hebrew and Spanish: exploring a remnant approach to defining roots

Ignacio L. Montoya


The root as a morphological unit has been utilized in the description and explanation of many linguistic patterns. The concept of the root, though, is not approached consistently across diverse morphological theories, making cross-linguistic comparison problematic. This paper explores a methodology for comparing roots across languages using what is called a remnant approach: Roots are characterized as the elements that remain after accounting for inflectional and derivational morphology. Such a characterization is preferable to a characterization in which roots are defined a priori in terms of a set of properties because it offers a procedure for identifying roots that is independent of the properties that we want to examine. The methodology for identifying roots via a remnant approach is illustrated using data from Modern Hebrew and Spanish, and a comparison of roots identified in this way is offered. Several observations from this comparison are discussed, including, for instance, that roots identified in such a manner have a more characteristic distribution than form or meaning in both Hebrew and Spanish. This and other findings suggest potential parameters that can serve as the basis of a more extensive typology of roots. In addition, the preliminary results of this work offer insights that can inform morphological theory.


roots; Hebrew; Spanish; cross-linguistic

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26220/mmm.2731

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