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Indo-European languages of the most archaic type, such as Old Indic and Ancient Greek, have rich fusional morphologies with predominant use of suffixation and ablaut as formal devices. The presence of cumulative inflectional morphs in final position is also a general IE feature.
A noteworthy property of the archaic IE morphological system is its root-based organization. This is well observable in Old Indo-Aryan, where the mental lexicon is largely made up of roots unspecified for word-class membership.
In the historical development of the different IE branches, recurrent phenomena are observed that lead to an increase in configurationality and a decrease in the degree of synthesis (use of adpositions at the expense of case forms, rise of auxiliaries and increasing employment of periphrastic morphology, creation of determiners). However, not all the documented developments can be subsumed under the rubric ‘morphological decay’: new synthetic verbal forms, which often coexist with the inherited ones, are often created via resynthesization of periphrases; new nominal case forms are sometimes created through univerbation of adpositional phrases; instances of prefixation recurrently arise from former compound structures consisting of adverb (‘preverb’) + verb.
The formation of inflectional paradigms with several mutually unpredictable subsections and of relatively complex systems of inflectional classes is also observed in various IE languages. The same holds for the rising of new patterns of morphophonological alternations, which often allow the preservation of several morphological oppositions even after the loss of inflectional endings. As a consequence, modern IE languages may exhibit higher degrees of fusionality, at least in specific morphological subsystems, than their diachronic foregoers.
In the various branches, the system of inflectional morphology could undergo several reshapings at the level of both the structure of grammatical categories and the formal organization of paradigms, sometimes with noteworthy typological changes. English poor morphology, Ossetic and New Armenian agglutinative nominal inflections, lack of verbal inflection of number, and presence of numeral classifiers in Eastern New Indo-Aryan varieties are among the examples of extreme departure from the ancient IE morphological type. A common development concerning word formation is the decline of the root-based organization of morphology.
The Dravidian languages are rich in nominal and verbal morphology. Three nominal gender systems are extant. Pronouns are gender-number marked demonstratives. Gender-number agreement in the DP suggests an incipient classifier system. Oblique cases are layered on a genitive stem; iterative genitive and plural marking is seen. Genitive and dative case mark possession/ experience (there is no verb have), and the adjectival use of property nouns.
Verbs inflect for agreement (in affirmative finite clauses), aspect, causativity, and benefactivity/ reflexivity. Light verbs are ubiquitous as aspect markers and predicate formatives, as are serial verbs. Variants of the quotative verb serve as complementizers and as topic and evidential particles. Disjunctive particles serve as question particles; conjunctive and disjunctive particles on question words derive quantifiers. Reduplication occurs in quantification and anaphor-formation.
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.
This chapter is an overview of the structure of words belonging to the major lexical categories (nouns and verbs) in Niger-Congo languages, with an emphasis on the morphological patterns typically found in the core Niger-Congo languages commonly considered as relatively conservative in their morphology: rich systems of verb morphology, both inflectional and derivational, and systems of gender-number marking with a relative high number of genders, and no possibility to isolate number marking from gender marking. As regards formal aspects of the structure of words, as a rule, verb forms are morphologically more complex than nominal forms. The highest degree of synthesis is found in the verbal morphology of some Bantu languages. Both prefixes and suffixes are found. Cumulative exponence is typically found in gender-number marking. Multiple exponence is very common in the verbal morphology of Bantu language but rather uncommon in the remainder of Niger-Congo. Consonant alternations are common in several groups of Niger-Congo languages, and various types of tonal alternations play an important role in the morphology of many Niger-Congo languages. The categories most commonly expressed in the inflectional morphology of nouns are gender, number, definiteness, and possession. The inflectional morphology of verbs commonly expresses agreement, TAM, and polarity, and is also widely used to express interclausal dependencies and information structure. As regards word formation, the situation is not uniform across the language groups included in Niger-Congo, but rich systems of verb-to-verb derivation are typically found in the Niger-Congo languages whose morphological patterns are commonly viewed as conservative.
Willem F. H. Adelaar
Quechuan is a family of closely related indigenous languages spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, in the central part of the Andean cordilleras, in what used to be the Empire of the Incas and adjacent areas. It is divided into two main branches, commonly denominated Quechua I and II, and comprises 15 or more spoken varieties and several extinct ones that can be considered separate languages, although an exact number cannot easily be established. Quechuan shares a long and intense contact history with the neighboring Aymaran languages, but a genealogical relationship between the two families has never been demonstrated, nor a relationship with any other language family in the area. Quechuan languages are mainly agglutinative. All grammatical categories are indicated by suffixes with very few exceptions. The order in which these suffixes occur within a word form is governed by rules and combinatory restrictions that can be rigid but not always explicable on a basis of scope and function. Portmanteau suffixes play a role in verbal inflection and in mutually interrelated domains of aspect and number in the Quechua I branch.
In Quechuan verbal derivation affixes may be semantically polyvalent, depending on the combinations in which they occur, pragmatic considerations, the nature of the root to which they are attached, their position in the affix order, and so on. Verbal derivational affixes often combine with specific verbal roots to denote meanings that are not fully predictable on the basis of the meaning of the components. Other verbal affixes never occur in such combinations. Verbal morphology and nominal morphology tend to overlap in the domain of personal reference, where subject and possessor markers are largely similar. Otherwise, the two morphological domains are almost completely separate. Not only the morphological inventories but also the formal constraints underlying the structure of verbs and nouns differ. Nominal expressions feature an elaborate but relatively instable system of case markers, some of which appear to be of recent formation. Transposition from one class to another, nominalization in particular, is indicated morphologically and occupies a central place in Quechuan grammar, particularly in interaction with case. Finally, there is a class of Independent suffixes that can be attached to members of all word classes, including adverbial elements that cannot be classified as verbs or nominals. These suffixes play a role at the organizational level of larger syntactic units, such as clauses, nominal phrases, and sentences.
The aim of this article is to present the morphology and morphosyntax of Trans New Guinea (TNG) languages to a wide audience of linguists. The TNG languages are a family of several hundred languages spoken across much of the New Guinea mainland. The morphology of TNG languages shows a high degree of diversity, from mildly polysynthetic to almost isolating. Language data from virtually all subgroups of TNG can be found here, giving preference to recent descriptions and new data.
TNG languages display a clear categorial divide between nouns and verbs. In terms of word formation, they typically allow N-N and V-V compounding. Category-changing derivational processes usually involve overt morphological means. TNG languages are rich in nominalization processes; verbalization processes are less common. Valency-changing derivational processes (causatives, applicatives) are widespread and involve affixation or verb serialization. Many TNG languages have a reduced inventory of verb roots, in extreme cases comprising only as few as 60 recorded roots. Serial verb constructions and light-verb constructions are used to increase the expressive power of the verb lexicon. Besides nouns and verbs, TNG languages have sizable classes of adjectives, small classes of adverbs, and pronouns, directionals, numerals, postpositions, and conjunctions.
Nouns have restricted inflectional morphology, with inflection for the possessor being the most widespread. Nominal number is expressed less often and gender is very rare. Peripheral case roles are signaled by postpositions. Many TNG languages show optional ergativity where transitive subjects can be marked by a special case depending on certain semantic or pragmatic factors, such as animacy, agentivity, or focus. Verb morphology is extensive, yielding large paradigms. TNG languages use verbal affixes to express core arguments. Subjects are almost universally indexed with a suffix on the verb. The majority of TNG languages also index the object on the verb, either with a prefix or a suffix. The majority alignment pattern in the clause is accusative. Most TNG languages employ distinct constructions for bodily and mental processes, depending on whether they are controlled by an animate agent (e.g., think) or whether they are manifestations of a stimulus beyond the control of the experiencer (e.g., be angry). Tense, aspect, and mood categories can all be found in TNG languages with one of them usually being dominant. For the expression of aspect, serial verb constructions are common in which the last verb in the serialization has undergone grammaticalization into an aspect marker—for example, a progressive marker which has developed from the verb ‘stay’.
In clause chains, almost all TNG languages distinguish between medial and final verbs. Medial verbs morphologically indicate co-reference or disjoint reference of key participants in the discourse, and final verbs provide morphosemantic information like tense, mood, or illocutionary force, which typically applies to the whole clause chain. Since this type of tracking system of continuity in discourse is highly characteristic of TNG in general and less common worldwide, it is treated in more detail here.
Peter M. Arkadiev
Morphology, understood as internal structure of words, has always figured prominently in linguistic typology, and it is with the morphological classification of languages into “fusional,” “agglutinating,” and “isolating” proposed by the linguists and philosophers of the early 19th century that the advent of typology is often associated. However, since then typology has shifted its interests toward mapping the individual parameters of cross-linguistic diversity and looking for correlations between them rather than classifying languages into idealized “types” and to syntactically and semantically centered inquiries. Since the second half of the 20th century, morphology has been viewed as just one possible type of expression of meaning or syntactic function, often too idiosyncratic to yield to any interesting cross-linguistic let alone universal generalizations. Such notions as “flexive” or “agglutinating” have proven to be ill-defined and requiring revision in terms of more primitive logically independent and empirically uncorrelated parameters. Moreover, well-founded doubts have been cast upon such basic notions as “word,” “affix,” and the like, which have notoriously resisted adequate cross-linguistically applicable definitions, and the same has been the fate of still popular concepts like “inflection” and “derivation.” On the other hand, most theoretically oriented work on morphology, concerned with both individual languages and cross-linguistic comparison, has largely abandoned the traditional morpheme-based approaches of the American structuralists of the first half of the 20th century, shifting its attention to paradigmatic relations between morphologically relevant units, which themselves can be larger than traditional words. These developments suggest a reassessment of the basic notions and analytic approaches of morphological typology. Instead of sticking to crude and possibly misleading notions such as “word” or “derivation,” it is necessary to carefully define more primitive and empirically better-grounded notions and parameters of cross-linguistic variation in the domains of both syntagmatics and paradigmatics, to plot the space of possibilities defined by these parameters, and to seek possible correlations between them as well as explanations of these correlations or of the lack thereof.
Anna Sőrés and Krisztina Hevér-Joly
Uralic languages are synthetic, agglutinative languages, overwhelmingly suffixing, and they have a rich inflectional morphology in both the nominal and the verbal domain. The Uralic family includes about 30 languages spoken in Europe and in North Eurasia and is traditionally divided into two branches: Finno-Ugric and Samoyed languages. The separation of the branches and subgroups is very distant in time; thus, these general morphological features show a notable variation.
Agglutinating is a general feature but there are some syncretisms, fusions, and suppletions and all languages have postpositions beside suffixes and some of them have prepositions.
Nouns and pronouns are inflected for number (singular, plural, and in some languages for dual), person, and case but not for gender. All Uralic languages have a case system. However, the number and the nature of the cases show a great variety: from 3 to 18 cases including grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, and genitive) and other spatial and non-spatial cases. A characteristic feature of these languages is the tripartite location system. The system of personal possessive markers is particularly interesting: the person and the number of the possessor and the number of the item possessed can be marked by suffixes. Combining the expression of possession and case, the morphotactic rules differ between the languages. Comparative and superlative adjectives can be also formed by inflection.
Verbs are inflected for person/number, tense, and mood. Uralic languages generally do not have the canonical passive voice. A characteristic feature of Ugric languages is the double conjugation of transitive verbs depending on the definiteness of the direct object. As verbal aspect is not an inflectional category, certain languages use a rich system of preverbs or derivational suffixes to express aspect and Aktionsart.
Due to the agglutinative character, Japanese and Ryukyuan morphology is predominantly concatenative, applying to garden-variety word formation processes such as compounding, prefixation, suffixation, and inflection, though nonconcatenative morphology like clipping, blending, and reduplication is also available and sometimes interacts with concatenative word formation. The formal simplicity of the principal morphological devices is counterbalanced by their complex interaction with syntax and semantics as well as by the intricate interactions of four lexical strata (native, Sino-Japanese, foreign, and mimetic) with particular morphological processes. A wealth of phenomena is adduced that pertain to central issues in theories of morphology, such as the demarcation between words and phrases; the feasibility of the lexical integrity principle; the controversy over lexicalism and syntacticism; the distinction of morpheme-based and word-based morphology; the effects of the stage-level vs. individual-level distinction on the applicability of morphological rules; the interface of morphology, syntax, and semantics, and pragmatics; and the role of conjugation and inflection in predicate agglutination. In particular, the formation of compound and complex verbs/adjectives takes place in both lexical and syntactic structures, and the compound and complex predicates thus formed are further followed in syntax by suffixal predicates representing grammatical categories like causative, passive, negation, and politeness as well as inflections of tense and mood to form a long chain of predicate complexes. In addition, an array of morphological objects—bound root, word, clitic, nonindependent word or fuzoku-go, and (for Japanese) word plus—participate productively in word formation. The close association of morphology and syntax in Japonic languages thus demonstrates that morphological processes are spread over lexical and syntactic structures, whereas words are equipped with the distinct property of morphological integrity, which distinguishes them from syntactic phrases.
What does it mean to document the morphology of a language, and how does one go about such a task? Most of the world’s languages are arguably underdocumented, yet morphological generalizations often require large amounts of primary data: thousands of word forms could be needed to establish basic patterns of allomorphy, for example, or the structure of an inflection-class system. Because of this, the major debates in the language documentation literature affect the field of morphology by shaping the nature of the data. A starting point is the idea that traditional methods of elicitation, often via translation from a contact language and inevitably requiring a patient speaker, can mask ingrained assumptions about the ontology of data and the wider context of linguistic research. Critical examination of these assumptions yields a wider range of possible approaches that can be drawn on to produce a corpus theorization (i.e., a rationale for the types of communicative events to be recorded) appropriate to each language situation. In particular, it has been argued that it is sometimes not ethical to collect language data in a decontextualized way that prioritizes (or appears to prioritize) the linguist’s goals above speakers’ goals, where those are not the same. Thus, in morphology, where virtually everyone agrees that some type of elicitation is essential, creativity and flexibility are sometimes needed to address or modify research questions. Fortunately, documentary linguistics has seen significant advances in the theory and practice of data management, making it possible to work efficiently with data from a wide variety of recording-session structures.
Of equal interest are the reasons why a decontextualized approach may be undesirable, even for the linguist’s analytical purposes. The goal of ‘documenting morphology’ is an abstract one; one can only really document word forms, and morphological structure is a product of analysis. From this fact arise a few problems. First, and even independently of the ethical issues referred to above, it is not always obvious what methods are most reliable for getting speakers to produce word forms or for understanding speakers’ knowledge about them. Different methods have complementary pros and cons, so it is usually necessary to use a mix. When working with existing data, an appreciation of the complexities of the data gathering process is useful for developing a critical approach to the background contexts, strengths, and limitations of primary sources. Second, ‘documentation’ implies a reasonable level of comprehensiveness. For many semantically or functionally defined phenomena, it is possible to make a cross-linguistically robust checklist that ensures that one has more or less covered the relevant territory. It is much less straightforward to compile an inventory of structures in any formal domain, particularly given cross-linguistic variation in morphological vs. syntactic vs. prosodic encoding of similar functional categories. In morphology, the linguist’s inventory of phenomena often keeps expanding until nearly all grammatical constructions and large numbers of lexical items have been encountered. Again, this challenge can be addressed by using a mix of methods and genres to check that one has a correct understanding of at least the most commonly occurring patterns. Spontaneous speech tends to contain constructions that fail to show up in elicitation for reasons like pragmatics or interference from the contact language, while structured elicitation or metalinguistic work is needed to fully investigate the word-formation patterns within each of those constructions, or indeed (if the linguist is nonnative) to get enough of a foothold to work with spontaneous speech at all. Checklists from the viewpoint of morphological typology tend to initially be most useful for monitoring and organizing, and later for filling gaps at a more advanced stage of research.
The investigation of morphology and lexical semantics is an investigation into the very essence of the semantics of word formation: the meaning of morphemes and how they can be combined to form meanings of complex words. Discussion of this question within the scholarly literature has been dependent on (i) the adopted morphological model (morpheme-based or word-based); and (ii) the adopted theoretical paradigm (such as formal/generativist accounts vs. construction-based approaches)—which also determined what problem areas received attention in the first place.
One particular problem area that has surfaced most consistently within the literature (irrespective of the adopted morphological model or theoretical paradigm) is the so-called semantic mismatch question, which also serves as the focus of the present chapter. In essence, semantic mismatch pertains to the question of why there is no one-to-one correspondence between form and meaning in word formation. In other words, it is very frequently not possible out of context to give a precise account of what the meaning of a newly coined word might be based simply on the constituents that the word originates from. The article considers the extent to which the meaning of complex words is (at least partly) based on nondecompositional knowledge, implying that the meaning-bearing feature of morphemes might in fact be a graded affair. Thus, depending on the entrenchment and strength of the interrelations among sets of words, the meaning of the components contributes only more or less to a meaning of a word, suggesting that “mismatches” might be neither unusual nor uncommon.
Birgit Alber and Sabine Arndt-Lappe
Work on the relationship between morphology and metrical structure has mainly addressed three questions:
1. How does morphological constituent structure map onto prosodic constituent structure, i.e., the structure that is responsible for metrical organization?
2. What are the reflexes of morphological relations between complex words and their bases in metrical structure?
3. How variable or categorical are metrical alternations?
The focus in the work specified in question 1 has been on establishing prosodic constituency with supported evidence from morphological constituency. Pertinent prosodic constituents are the prosodic (or phonological) word, the metrical foot, the syllable, and the mora (Selkirk, 1980). For example, the phonological behavior of certain affixes has been used to argue that they are word-internal prosodic words, which thus means that prosodic words may be recursive structures (e.g., Aronoff & Sridhar, 1987). Similarly, the shape of truncated words has been used as evidence for the shape of the metrical foot (cf., e.g., Alber & Arndt-Lappe, 2012).
Question 2 considers morphologically conditioned metrical alternations. Stress alternations have received particular attention. Affixation processes differ in whether or not they exhibit stress alternations. Affixes that trigger stress alternations are commonly referred to as 'stress-shifting' affixes, those that do not are referred to as 'stress-preserving' affixes. The fact that morphological categories differ in their stress behavior has figured prominently in theoretical debates about the phonology-morphology interface, in particular between accounts that assume a stratal architecture with interleaving phonology-morphology modules (such as lexical phonology, esp. Kiparsky, 1982, 1985) and those that assume that morphological categories come with their own phonologies (e.g., Inkelas, Orgun, & Zoll, 1997; Inkelas & Zoll, 2007; Orgun, 1996).
Question 3 looks at metrical variation and its relation to the processing of morphologically complex words. There is a growing body of recent empirical work showing that some metrical alternations seem variable (e.g., Collie, 2008; Dabouis, 2019). This means that different stress patterns occur within a single morphological category. Theoretical explanations of the phenomenon vary depending on the framework adopted. However, what unites pertinent research seems to be that the variation is codetermined by measures that are usually associated with lexical storage. These are semantic transparency, productivity, and measures of lexical frequency.
The five languages of the Northwest Caucasian family (also known as West Caucasian or Abkhaz-Adyghe), namely West Circassian, Kabardian, Ubykh, Abkhaz, and Abaza, are remarkable for their high degree of polysynthesis. This manifests itself in complex words that bear a lot of information on arguments and the characteristics of a situation, and which presumably can be constructed in the course of speech. Content words usually consist of several morphological zones within which certain permutations of morphemes are possible. Both prefixes and suffixes occur, with some morphemes being capable of appearing either as a prefix or a suffix, depending on the form. The predicate shows ergative-based cross-reference of core arguments and indirect objects introduced by applicatives, extensive use of the causative (including double causativization), highly developed means of expressing locational semantics within the predicate, and intricate tense-modality-aspect and polarity systems. Although classical noun-to-verb incorporation does not occur, there are constructions akin to incorporation, especially in the nominal domain. Nouns constitute a subclass of a broad class of predicates (both morphologically and syntactically) and hence may take the basic predicate morphology. At the same time, they form word-like nominal complexes with their attributes, and show specific head-marking possessive morphology (in West Circassian even distinguishing alienable and inalienable possession). Definiteness/specificity is regularly expressed either by articles (in Abkhaz, Abaza and Ubykh) or by the presence/absence of core case marking (in West Circassian and Kabardian). Morphemes demonstrate features that are not typical of morphemes in Standard Average European languages, including a high degree of autonomy reflected in affix order variation, widespread morphological recursion, occasional reduplication and even the ability to attach to complex syntactic constituents.
Matthew J. Carroll
The Yam languages are a primary language family spoken in southern New Guinea across an area spanning around 180km west to east across both the Indonesian province of Papua and Papua New Guinea.
The Yam languages are morphologically remarkable for their complex verbal inflection characterized by a tendency to distribute inflectional exponence across multiple sites on the verb. Under this pattern of distributed exponence, segmental formatives, that is, affixes, are identifiable but assigning any coherent semantics to these elements is often difficult and instead the inflectional meanings can only be determined once multiple formatives have been combined. Despite their complex inflectional morphology, Yam languages display comparatively impoverished word formation or derivational morphology.
Nominal inflection is characterized by moderately large case inventories, the largest displaying 16 cases. Nouns are occasionally marked for number although this is typically restricted to certain case values. Verbal paradigms are much larger than nominal paradigms. Verbs mark agreement with up to two arguments in person, number, and natural gender. Verbs also mark complex tense, aspect, and mood values; in all languages this involves at least two aspect values, multiple past tense values, and some level of grammatical mood marking. Verbs may also be marked for diathesis, direction, and/or pluractionality.
The overall morphological pattern is that of fusional or inflectional languages. Nominal inflection is rather straightforward with nominals taking case suffixes or clitics with little to no inflectional classes. The true complexity lies in the organization of the verbal inflectional system, about which, despite individual variation across the family, a number of architectural generalizations can be made. The family displays a fairly uniform verbal inflectional template and all languages make a distinction between prefixing and ambifixing verbs. Prefixing verbs show agreement via a prefix only while ambifixing verbs via agreement with a suffix, for monovalent clauses, or with both a prefix and a suffix for bivalent verbs. These agreement affixes are also involved in the distributed exponence of tense, aspect, and mood.
Giorgio Francesco Arcodia and Bianca Basciano
Sino-Tibetan is a highly diverse language family, in which a wide range of morphological phenomena and profiles may be found. The family is generally seen as split into two major branches, i.e., Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman, but while Sinitic is a fairly homogeneous group in terms of morphology, the so-called Tibeto-Burman branch of the family includes isolating languages like Karen, languages with transparent and regular agglutinative morphology (Lolo-Burmese, Tibetic, and Boro-Garo), but also paradigmatically complex languages, with elaborate argument indexation and transitivity management systems; while in some languages morphological complexity is mostly a conservative trait (e.g., Rgyalrongic and Kiranti), other languages developed innovative paradigms, with only few vestiges of the archaic system (Kuki-Chin). Some notable morphological phenomena in modern Tibeto-Burman languages are verb stem alternation, peculiar nominalization constructions, and long sequences of prefixes, which in some languages (Chintang) may even be freely permutated without any relevant change in meaning.
Also, while Sinitic languages are normally taken to be a prototypical example of the (ideal) isolating morphological type (with virtually no inflection, stable morpheme boundaries, no cumulative exponence, and no allomorphy or suppletion), phenomena of strong reduction of morphemes, blurring of morpheme boundaries and fusion between root and suffix, and nonconcatenative morphology, as well as allomorphy and (proto-)paradigmatic organization of morphology, are attested in some Chinese dialects, mostly concentrated in an area of Northern China (Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei, and Shandong provinces). Moreover, ‘Altaic-type’ agglutinative morphology, including case marking, is found in Sinitic languages of the so-called Qinghai-Gansu Sprachbund; in this case, the development of agglutination, as well as other typological traits (as SOV word order), is clearly the product of intense and prolonged contact between Northwestern Chinese dialects and Tibetic and Mongolic languages of China. On the other hand, Southern Chinese dialects have developed in closer contact with Hmong-Mien, Tai-Kadai, and Austroasiatic languages, and are thus closer to the typology of Mainland Southeast Asian languages, with a very strong isolating profile.
Tone is indispensable for understanding many morphological systems of the world. Tonal phenomena may serve the morphological needs of a language in a variety of ways: segmental affixes may be specified for tone just like roots are; affixes may have purely tonal exponents that associate to segmental material provided by other morphemes; affixes may consist of tonal melodies, or “templates”; and tonal processes may apply in a way that is sensitive to morphosyntactic boundaries, delineating word-internal structure.
Two behaviors set tonal morphemes apart from other kinds of affixes: their mobility and their ability to apply phrasally (i.e., beyond the limits of the word). Both floating tones and tonal templates can apply to words that are either phonologically grouped with the word containing the tonal morpheme or syntactically dependent on it.
Problems generally associated with featural morphology are even more acute in regard to tonal morphology because of the vast diversity of tonal phenomena and the versatility with which the human language faculty puts pitch to use. The ambiguity associated with assigning a proper role to tone in a given morphological system necessitates placing further constraints on our theory of grammar. Perhaps more than any other morphological phenomena, grammatical tone exposes an inadequacy in our understanding both of the relationship between phonological and morphological modules of grammar and of the way that phonology may reference morphological information.
It has been an ongoing issue within generative linguistics how to properly analyze morpho-phonological processes. Morpho-phonological processes typically have exceptions, but nonetheless they are often productive. Such productive, but exceptionful, processes are difficult to analyze, since grammatical rules or constraints are normally invoked in the analysis of a productive pattern, whereas exceptions undermine the validity of the rules and constraints. In addition, productivity of a morpho-phonological process may be gradient, possibly reflecting the relative frequency of the relevant pattern in the lexicon. Simple lexical listing of exceptions as suppletive forms would not be sufficient to capture such gradient productivity of a process with exceptions. It is then necessary to posit grammatical rules or constraints even for exceptionful processes as long as they are at least in part productive. Moreover, the productivity can be correctly estimated only when the domain of rule application is correctly identified. Consequently, a morpho-phonological process cannot be properly analyzed unless we possess both the correct description of its application conditions and the appropriate stochastic grammatical mechanisms to capture its productivity.
The same issues arise in the analysis of morpho-phonological processes in Korean, in particular, n-insertion, sai-siot, and vowel harmony. Those morpho-phonological processes have many exceptions and variations, which make them look quite irregular and unpredictable. However, they have at least a certain degree of productivity. Moreover, the variable application of each process is still systematic in that various factors, phonological, morphosyntactic, sociolinguistic, and processing, contribute to the overall probability of rule application. Crucially, grammatical rules and constraints, which have been proposed within generative linguistics to analyze categorical and exceptionless phenomena, may form an essential part of the analysis of the morpho-phonological processes in Korean.
For an optimal analysis of each of the morpho-phonological processes in Korean, the correct conditions and domains for its application need to be identified first, and its exact productivity can then be measured. Finally, the appropriate stochastic grammatical mechanisms need to be found or developed in order to capture the measured productivity.
The Dravidian languages, spoken mainly in southern India and south Asia, were identified as a separate language family between 1816 and 1856. Four of the 26 Dravidian languages, namely Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam, have long literary traditions, the earliest dating back to the 1st century
A typical characteristic of Dravidian, which is also an areal characteristic of south Asian languages, is that experiencers and inalienable possessors are case-marked dative. Another is the serialization of verbs by the use of participles, and the use of light verbs to indicate aspectual meaning such as completion, self- or nonself-benefaction, and reflexivization. Subjects, and arguments in general (e.g., direct and indirect objects), may be nonovert. So is the copula, except in Malayalam.
A number of properties of Dravidian are of interest from a universalist perspective, beginning with the observation that not all syntactic categories N, V, A, and P are primitive. Dravidian postpositions are nominal or verbal in origin. A mere 30 Proto-Dravidian roots have been identified as adjectival; the adjectival function is performed by inflected verbs (participles) and nouns. The nominal encoding of experiences (e.g., as fear rather than afraid/afeared) and the absence of the verb have arguably correlate with the appearance of dative case on experiencers. “Possessed” or genitive-marked N may fulfill the adjectival function, as noticed for languages like Ulwa (a less exotic parallel is the English of-possessive construction: circles of light, cloth of gold). More uniquely perhaps, Kannada instantiates dative-marked N as predicative adjectives. A recent argument that Malayalam verbs originate as dative-marked N suggests both that N is the only primitive syntactic category, and the seminal role of the dative case.
Other important aspects of Dravidian morphosyntax to receive attention are anaphors and pronouns (not discussed here; see separate article, anaphora in Dravidian), in particular the long-distance anaphor taan and the verbal reflexive morpheme; question (wh-) words and the question/disjunction morphemes, which combine in a semantically transparent way to form quantifier words like someone; the use of reduplication for distributive quantification; and the occurrence of ‘monstrous agreement’ (first-person agreement in clauses embedded under a speech predicate, triggered by matrix third-person antecedents).
Traditionally, agreement has been considered the finiteness marker in Dravidian. Modals, and a finite form of negation, also serve to mark finiteness. The nonfinite verbal complement to the finite negative may give the negative clause a tense interpretation. Dravidian thus attests matrix nonfinite verbs in finite clauses, challenging the equation of finiteness with tense.
The Dravidian languages are considered wh-in situ languages. However, wh-words in Malayalam appear in a pre-verbal position in the unmarked word order. The apparently rightward movement of some wh-arguments could be explained by assuming a universal VO order, and wh-movement to a preverbal focus phrase. An alternative analysis is that the verb undergoes V-to-C movement.
George van Driem
Several language families and a few language isolates are represented in the Himalayas, the world’s greatest massif, running a length of over 3,600 km. The most well-represented language family in this region happens to be the Trans-Himalayan language family, whose very centre of gravity and phylogenetic diversity is situated within the Eastern Himalaya. This most populous language family on our planet in terms of numbers of speakers used to be known as Tibeto-Burman but, in some circles, the family formerly also went by the names “Indo-Chinese” or “Sino-Tibetan”, the latter two labels actually designating empirically unsupported and now obsolete models of language relationship. The study of Trans-Himalayan historical grammar began with Brian Houghton Hodgson in the 1830s, who during this time served at Kathmandu as the British Resident to the Kingdom of Nepal. Periodically, minor studies devoted attention to several of the more salient morphosyntactic phenomena of Trans-Himalayan historical grammar, but Stuart Wolfenden contributed the first major monograph to the subject in the 1920s. Finally, the historical morphosyntax of the Trans-Himalayan language family came to be the focus of numerous linguistic studies from the 1970s onward, and since that time our understanding of the historical grammar of the language family has changed drastically.
As ever more languages out of the hundreds of previously undocumented Trans-Himalayan tongues came to be described and analysed in great detail, it came to be understood that the flamboyant verbal agreement morphology observed in languages such as the Kiranti languages of eastern Nepal and the rGyalrongic languages of southwestern China were neither grammatically innovative nor represented typological flukes, but instead represented the most grammatically conservative languages within the entire language family. Subsequently, cognate inflectional systems or vestiges of cognate conjugational morphology were discovered in most other branches of the language family as well. The geographical centre, as well as the centre of phylogenetic diversity of the Trans-Himalayan language family, was identified as the highland arc of the Eastern Himalaya. Sinitic languages, although representing by far the most populous single branch of the Trans-Himalayan family, were now understood as constituting just one out of many subgroups, not more divergent from other branches than any one of the four dozen other subgroups making up the language family. The various types of epistemic marking systems observed sporadically throughout the region were shown to be secondary innovations, reflecting a great variety of semantically distinct language-specific grammatical categories. Particularly, languages showing the typology of the Loloish or Sinitic type were shown to be innovative in their grammar, having lost much of the original Trans-Himalayan morphosyntax.
Japanese is a language rich in verbs representing Path of motion, but it also has verbs representing Manner and Deixis. Examining how they are used can deepen our understanding of some of the interesting properties of the Japanese language.
In typological literature on motion events descriptions, Japanese has been claimed to be the type of language in which Path is expressed in the main verb position rather than elsewhere in the sentence, with the use of a path verb. However, this view must be qualified in two ways. First, the language exhibits intralinguistic variation, using postpositions and other nonverbal elements to represent Path notions such as FROM, TO, and ALONG. Second, Path is expressed in the main verb position only when Deixis is absent from the sentence.
One feature of manner verbs in Japanese is that they are not used very often, especially concerning walking events. This phenomenon is accounted for by the “cost” of expressing Manner in Japanese. Another property of manner verbs in Japanese is they are incompatible with a goal phrase, which has been previously accounted for in different ways. A close semantic examination of manner verbs suggests that this restriction can be attributed to the nature of goal marking, rather than the semantics of manner verbs.
An examination of corpus and experimental data also reveals how Japanese speakers use deictic verbs. Deictic motion verbs are used very frequently, though this tendency is not observed in descriptions of the motion of inanimate entities. Finally, deictic verbs in Japanese are sensitive to the notion of the speaker’s interactional space or territory, not just restricted by the spatial location of the speaker.