Workshop details

Workshop Morphological Variation at the Annual Meeting of the German Linguistic Society 2025 (DGfS 2025), Mainz, March 5-7, 2025


Ingo Plag, Kilu von Prince (HHU Düsseldorf) & Jessica Nieder (U Passau)

Invited speakers:

Mirjam Ernestus (Radbound Universiteit Nijmegen, NL)

Richard Huyghe (Université de Fribourg, CH)


Theories of morphology face the fundamental challenge to account for the vast amount of variation in the mapping of meaning onto form (in production), and of form onto meaning (in comprehension). How we understand this variation is crucial even for conceptions of what constitutes a ‘complex word’, which range from compositional mappings of form and meaning to units of lexical storage whose formal properties reflect heavily interconnected, distributed information in the Mental Lexicon. Morphological variation is reflected in surface forms, and concerns, for example, the choice of exponents, the segmental and prosodic make-up of complex words, their spelling, and even their articulation and acoustic properties. On top of that, there is variation between individuals, which underlines the relevance of investigating the relation between individual variation on the one hand, and a morphological system that is commonly hypothesized to be shared by all speakers on the other. Understanding morphological variation in all its facets is crucial for a general understanding of morphology, i.e. the interaction of form and meaning at and below the word level.

Recent research on the usage, production and comprehension of complex words in speech and writing has led to new insights about how morphological structure may influence their phonology (e.g. Arndt-Lappe & Ernestus 2020), articulation and acoustics (e.g. Plag et al. 2017) and spelling (e.g. Gahl & Plag 2019). So far, the range of investigated phenomena and languages is still limited but the results obtained so far pose serious challenges for current theories of phonology-morphology interaction, of the mental lexicon and of language production, perception and comprehension. We invite contributions on the articulation, acoustics, phonology, spelling, semantics and processing of complex words that address the following or related questions from both a theoretical and empirical perspective: (1) How can morphological structure lead to variation in the articulatory, acoustic, orthographic, phonological and semantic properties of complex words? (2) Seen from the reverse angle, what does variation in these properties reveal about the nature of morphological structure? (3) What are the implications for theories and models in these domains?


Arndt-Lappe, Sabine & Mirjam Ernestus. 2020. Morphology-phonology interaction. In Vito Pirelli, Ingo Plag & Wolfgang U. Dressler (eds.), Word knowledge and word usage: A cross- disciplinary guide to the mental lexicon. 191-227, Berlin & New York.

Gahl, Susanne & Ingo Plag. 2019. Affixal spelling errors in English reflect morphological boundary strength: A case study. The Mental Lexicon 14(1), 1–36.

Plag, Ingo, Julia Homann & Gero Kunter. 2017. Homophony and morphology: The acoustics of word-final S in English. Journal of Linguistics 53(1), 181–216.