Remarks on Nonconcatenative Affixation

In: Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics
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  • 1 UMR 7110, Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle CNRS & Université Paris 7

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On the basis of two case studies taken from unrelated languages, Berber (Afroasiatic) and German (Indoeuropean), this paper shows that the linear order of nonconcatenative markers in templates corresponds to their relative hierarchical position. In Berber, a VSO language, the linear order of the markers in the verb template is head-final. In Standard German, an SOV language, it is head-initial. The linear order of nonconcatenative markers in templates is thus predicted by the Mirror Principle. In a second step, I show that the co-occurrence of morphosyntactic features in a single templatic position is constrained by syntactic locality: A given templatic site may only host multiple morphosyntactic features, if those features belong to the same syntactic domain.

In summary, the nonconcatenative morphological phenomena discussed in this paper are subject to general principles of syntactic structure. I put forth the hypothesis that this observation holds universally. Nonconcatenative marking cannot be considered an exotic characteristic of a particular language, or family of languages, e.g., Afroasiatic or Semitic. It is part of Universal Grammar. The theory of grammar cannot treat it as exceptional.

  • 1

    But see Arbaoui (2010) for an analysis of the Classical Arabic verb system linking the position of nonconcatenative markers to the syntactic features they express.

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