The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 11/19 – Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz
Title: Outward-Looking Phonologically Conditioned Allomorphy in the Koryak Verb: A Conspiracy in Exponence.
Date and time: Monday 11/19, 5-6pm
Location: 32-D831

“Bobaljik (2000) proposes that phonologically-conditioned allomorphy (PCA) can only be inward-sensitive. The reasoning goes like this: Assume vocabulary insertion is cyclic. Given this, when a given node is undergoing vocabulary insertion, phonological information will not be present for any nodes above it. This precludes the choice of the vocabulary item from being influenced by the shape of any higher morphemes. In this talk, I will discuss a counterexample to this proposal from a conspiracy in exponence found in the verb-word of Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan; Russian Far East), in which an aspectual (?) suffix and an agreement suffix cannot coexist if the agreement suffix begins in a non-coronal consonant. In intransitive verbs, this causes the (outer) agreement suffix to delete, making this an instance of inward-looking PCA. In transitive verbs, however, the (inner) aspectual suffix deletes, making this an instance of outward-looking PCA. I analyze this by appealing to obliteration, an operation that deletes entire terminals, but, following Vergara & Luis (2017), argue that this obliteration takes place after vocabulary insertion. To account for the conspiracy involved in the realization of these morphemes, I propose that this case of obliteration is governed by a grammar of ranked, violable constraints (Prince & Smolensky 2008). This analysis is consistent with the predictions about the directionality of allomorphy based on cyclic spellout because it shifts the responsibility for this alternation to a post-spellout operation. Time permitting, I’ll talk about the difficulty of assigning specific semantic contributions to elements we might want to call tense and aspect morphemes in the Koryak verb to show why I put a question mark in the phrase ‘aspectual (?) suffix’ above.”