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.
The languages of Australia, generally recognized as falling into two groups, Pama-Nyungan and non-Pama-Nyungan, are remarkable for their phonological and morphological homogeneity. All Australian languages exhibit a range of suffixation for grammatical and derivational categories, typically with a high index of agglutination, along with widespread patterns of compounding and reduplication, in the latter case, often of unusual types. In some Pama-Nyungan languages, case suffixation forms complex constructions indexing multiple levels of relations within the clause and across clauses, including agreement of nouns with verbs for erstwhile cases which have developed into tense-aspect-modality systems. Non-Pama-Nyungan languages tend to have more elaborate verbal structures, including such features as incorporation of nouns and adverbs, cross-referencing of multiple participants, valence-changing morphology, and systems of noun class/gender agreement across the clause, typically of four to five classes. Many languages from both subgroups have complex predicate formations, which typically inhabit a region between phrasal and compound status. Finite verbs commonly inflect for a smallish number of tense-aspect-mood categories and can often be classified into a number of conjugation classes. Nouns by contrast rarely (if ever) inflect in patterns characteristic of declension classes in European languages. Words appear to be largely right-headed, based on the evidence of noun-adjective compounds. Gender/noun class systems in some languages have been co-opted by the case system to mark case relations, and in others to realize derivational meanings such as association or part-whole relations. Pronominal agreement systems in both PN and NPN languages can reach Baroque levels of complexity in incorporating distinctions based on social categories such as sibling, social category membership (such as moeity) and kinship. Bound pronominal agreement with a single argument is exceedingly rare: if there is a verbal or clitic agreement system, it almost always agrees with at least two arguments.
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.
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.
An agent noun is a derived noun whose general meaning is ‘person who does . . .’. It is thus characterized by the feature [+ Human], regardless of whether the person involved actually performs an action (e.g., French nageur ‘swimmer’, i.e., ‘a person who swims’), carries out a profession (e.g., Spanish cabrero ‘goatherd’, i.e., ‘a person who looks after goats’), adheres to a certain ideology or group (e.g., Italian femminista ‘feminist’, i.e., ‘a person who supports or follows the feminist movement’), and so on. Agent nouns are for the most part denominal (as with cabrero and femminista above) and deverbal (as with nageur above). Latin denominal agent nouns were mainly formed with -arius, though the Latin agentive suffix par excellence was -tor, which derived nouns from verbs. Latin denominal agents were also formed with -ista, a borrowing from Greek -ιστήϛ. The reflexes of all three suffixes are widespread and highly productive in the Romance languages, as in the case of Portuguese/Spanish/Catalan/Occitan pescador ‘fisherman’ (-dor < -torem), French boucher ‘butcher’ (-er < -arium), and Romanian flautist (-ist < -ista). At any rate, the distinction between denominal and deverbal agent nouns is not always straightforward, as demonstrated by the Romance forms connected with the Latin present particle -nte, for whereas the majority display a verbal base (e.g., Italian cantante ‘singer’ ← cantare ‘to sing’), there are some which do not (e.g., Italian bracciante ‘hired hand’ ← braccio ‘arm’), thus allowing them to be regarded as denominal derivations. A minor group of agent nouns is made up of deadjectival derivations, often conveying a pejorative meaning; such is the case with Italian elegantone ‘person of overblown elegance’ (← elegante ‘elegant’) and French richard ‘very rich person’ (← riche ‘rich’).
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.