Morphology in Kra-Dai Languages
- Yongxian LuoYongxian LuoDepartment of Linguistics, University of Melbourne
The Kra-Dai languages (also known as Kam-Tai, Tai-Kadai, Tai-Kradai, Daic) are generally described as one of the most representative and extreme examples of isolating and analytic types; they are tonal, lacking in inflectional morphology of the type found in Indo-European. Kra-Dai languages can be said to have no distinction for number and gender in morphology, although many languages have lexical items to indicate number and gender, and some of these are increasingly used as prefixable morphemes. The majority of basic vocabulary items are monosyllabic, but disyllabic and multi-syllabic words also abound.
The main strategies of morphological devices in Kra-Dai include the use of prefixes, suffixes, infixes, compounding, and reduplication. There are also phonological alternations involving stem-internal initial, vowel, or tone changes to form doublets or word families.
In compounding, a significant number of compounds are idiosyncratic. Some are exocentric compounds. Opinions are divided over the identification of certain word classes due to their multifunctionality. Questions have been raised about the distinction between nouns and classifiers, and between verbs and prepositions, between adjectives and adverbs, among others. These word classes exhibit cross-boundary morphosyntactic features.
Kra-Dai languages possess a rich system of noun classifiers. Some of them play a crucial role in ethno-biological taxonomy imbedded in morphological systems. A number of lexical items function as grammatical morphemes in morphosyntactic operations to mark case and other semantico-syntactic relations. Serial verb constructions are widely used without overt marking to indicate grammatical relations. Temporal and aspectual meanings are expressed through tense-aspect markers typically derived from verbs, while mood and modality are conveyed via a rich array of discourse particles as well as a set of modal-auxiliary verbs and pragmatic devices. Word formation and related morphosyntactic processes in Kra-Dai are shown to exhibit features, some of which reflect what is the universal, but others, what is culture specific.