Non-Concatenative Morphology

Course time: 
Tuesday/Friday 11:00 AM-12:50 PM
The 90, Room 215

The primary discourse of morphology has privileged an “assembly” metaphor that trades in segmentable pieces, distributed according to hierarchies and/or templates. As a consequence, non-combinative marks – that is, morphological marking operations and systems that are not straightforwardly modeled as affixation – are accorded a relatively marginal status as necessarily exceptional, irregular, ineligible for functional extension, unproductive, lexically listed, semiotically disfavored, under pressure for replacement, and requiring recourse to repair or readjustment machinery.

The target phenomena for this course have the following characteristics: (1) distinct from affixation, they do not correspond to a segmental enlargement of a formal base: they include substitutions, metatheses, subtractions, and, by some accounts, formal identity; (2) distinct from morphophonology proper, they are used as sole indicators of derivational and/or inflectional distinctions on a language-particular basis; & (3) distinct from (automatic) phonology, they do not show synchronic phonetic motivation in their conditioning environment: they serve neither to increase faithfulness nor to reduce markedness.

Non-concatenative marking is widely attested, playing a larger or smaller role in particular languages and language families. As core instances for consideration, the proposed course will examine initial consonant mutation patterns in Celtic languages and a subset of vowel alternations in Germanic languages. Many other instances are available cross-linguistically, including morphologically significant prosodic alternation-patterns.