Order of Operations

How do linguists proceed to reasoning about what goes on in the black box known as the LAD – language acquisition device?
Here’s a simples example:
Spanish-speakers in the U.S. use the English words ‘rims’ for those shiny things you put on your car’s wheels. They pronounce it ‘rines’. I have seen that written in informal advertising and even some formal. That’s what people use.
But it is a good example of linguistic analysis to uncover how we get ‘rines’ instead of ‘rimes.’
So first of all, the n indicates that somewhere along the adoption path the word was ‘rim’ not ‘rims.’ Spanish does not ‘permit’ (personalizing a language) a final m, only n (or s, l, or r). So the word became ‘rin.’
To make it plural, English adds -s but Spanish does not permit an -s to be added to a final consonant like n, so it is realized as -es, thus ‘rines.’
What does this show us about the order of operations? Let’s see what had to be done to ‘rims’ to get ‘rines.’
#1 rim > rin
#2 plural > -es
#3 > rines
the order this being the m > n, THEN add the plural.
If the order had been otherwise, i.e. first the plural, then the order would look like this:
#1 rim + -es > rimes, a perfectly reasonable Spanish form (in fact it means ‘it might rhyme’)
Thus we know the phonetic change is made first, then the grammatical ending is added second, not the other way around.

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