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Nonconcatenative morphology is a form of word-formation in which the root is modified in a way other than by stringing morphemes together. In English, for example, plurals are usually formed by adding the suffix /z/:
dog ↔ dog+/z/
However, certain words bear the remnants of older non-concatenative processes in their plural forms:
foot ↔ feet
This specific form of non-concatenative morphology is known as base modification, a form in which part of the root undergoes a phonological change without necessarily adding new phonological material. Other forms of base modification include lengthening of a vowel, as in Hindi:
/mar-/ "die" ↔ /maːr-/ "kill"
or tonal change, as in Chalcatongo Mixtec:
/káʔba/ "filth" ↔ /káʔbá/ "dirty".
Another form of non-concatenative morphology is known as transfixation, in which vowel and consonant morphemes are interdigitized. For example, depending on the vowels, the Arabic consonantal root k-t-b can have different but semantically-related meanings. Thus, [katab] 'he wrote' and [kita:b] 'book' both come from the root k-t-b. In the analysis provided by McCarthy's account of nonconcatenative morphology, the consonantal root is assigned to one tier, and the vowel pattern to another.
Yet another common type of non-concatenative morphology is reduplication, a process in which all or part of the root is reduplicated. In Sakha, this process is used to form intensified adjectives:
/k̠ɨhɨl/ "red" ↔ /k̠ɨp-k̠ɨhɨl/ "flaming red".
A final common type of non-concatenative morphology is variously referred to as truncation, deletion, or subtraction. This process removes phonological material from the root, as in Murle:
/oɳiːt/ "rib" ↔ /oɳiː/ "ribs".
References & Bibliography
- Haspelmath, Martin (2002). Understanding Morphology, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-340-76026-5.
- McCarthy, John J. (1981). A Prosodic Theory of Nonconcatenative Morphology. Linguistic Inquiry 12: 373-418.
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