The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Linguistics Colloquium - 5/8 - Sharon Rose

Speaker: Sharon Rose (UCSD)
Title: Tone Distribution and Affix Order in Moro
Time: Friday, May 8th, 2009, 3.30pm-5pm
Place: 32-155 Please note special place

This talk investigates two separate, but related phenomena in the verbal morphology of Moro: tone distribution and the order of object markers. Moro is a Kordofanian language spoken in Sudan; the research is part of the Moro Language Project at UCSD.

The interaction between tone and syllable weight has primarily focused on the distribution of contour tones. In Moro verb roots, high tone is distributed according to syllable size or weight. Heavy syllables preferentially bear high tone, whereas light onsetless syllables cannot bear high tone. I argue in favor of prominence constraints as in onset-sensitive stress systems (Gordon 2005) rather than extraprosodicity, an approach which fails to explain the onsetless syllable?s participation in other prosodic processes. The domain for tonal restrictions in Moro is the macrostem rather than the word. Onsets from within the macrostem (progressive prefix v-) license high tone on the initial root vowel, but those outside the macrostem do not. In addition, macrostem affixes that bear high tone cause deletion of root high tone and prevent the realization of tone-licensing prefixes. The macrostem as a whole only allows a single high tone.

The macrostem constituent is important not only for regulating tonal processes, but also affix order. Object markers in Moro attach as prefixes in imperfective aspect, but the same markers appear as suffixes in perfective aspect, outside the macrostem. Object markers longer than a syllable or without high tone also appear as suffixes. I argue that these data point to a templatic approach to the mobile affixes, in the sense of both a position and prosodic requirements within the macrostem. This is further confirmed by double object markers. In perfective aspect, both object markers appear as suffixes. The linear order of the two objects is determined not based on grammatical role, but by a hierarchy of person/number features (1 > 2 > 3 and pl > sg). In imperfective aspect, the first object marker is realized as a prefix and the second as a suffix; the discontinuous linear order follows the same person/number hierarchy. The Moro data point to a templatic approach to linear ordering (Nordlinger 2008), and also provide support for approaches to morphology that are independent of syntactic operations.