This is an overview of the major morphological properties of Austronesian languages. We present and analyze data that may bear on the commonly discussed lexical-category neutrality of Austronesian and suggest that Austronesian languages do differentiate between core lexical categories. We address the difference between roots and stems showing that Austronesian roots are more abstract than roots traditionally discussed in morphology. Austronesian derivation and inflexion rely on suffixation and prefixation; some infixation is also attested. Austronesian languages make extensive use of reduplication. In the verbal system, main morphological exponents mark voice distinctions as well as causatives and applicatives. In the nominal domain, the main morphological exponents include case markers, classifiers, and possession markers. Overall, verbal morphology is richer in Austronesian languages than nominal morphology. We also present a short overview of empirically and theoretically challenging issues in Austronesian morphology: the status of infixes and circumfixes, the difference between affixes and clitics, and the morphosyntactic characterization of voice morphology.
Theodore Levin and Maria Polinsky
Kristel Van Goethem
Affixation is the morphological process that consists of adding an affix (i.e., a bound morpheme) to a morphological base. It is cross-linguistically the most common process that human languages use to derive new lexemes (derivational affixation) or to adapt a word’s form to its morphosyntactic context (inflectional affixation). Suffixes (i.e., bound morphemes following the base) and prefixes (i.e., bound morphemes preceding the base) are the most common affixes, with suffixation being more frequently recorded in the world’s languages than prefixation. Minor types of affixation include circumfixation and infixation. Conversion and back-formation are related derivational processes that do not make use of affixation. Many studies have concentrated on the need to differentiate derivation from inflection, but these morphological processes are probably best described as two end points of a cline. Prototypically, derivation is used to change a word’s category (part of speech) and involves a semantic change. A word’s inflectional distinctions make up its paradigm, which amounts to the different morphological forms that correlate with different morphosyntactic functions. Form-function mapping in (derivational and inflectional) affixation is a key issue in current research on affixation. Many deviations from the canonical One Form-One Meaning principle can be observed in the field of affixation. From a diachronic point of view, it has been demonstrated that affixes often derive from free lexemes by grammaticalization, with affixoids being recognized as an intermediate step on this cline. More controversial, but still attested, is the opposite change whereby affixes and affixoids develop into free morphemes through a process of degrammaticalization.