The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MIT Colloquium 3/8: Laura Kalin (Princeton)

Speaker: Laura Kalin (Princeton University)
Title: Morphological opacity in Turoyo (Neo-Aramaic): Support for cyclicity and separation
Time: Friday, March 8th, 3:30-5 pm
Location: 32-141 (please note, this is a different lecture hall than the room the colloquia are usually in)

Abstract: In this talk, I use complex verbs in the Neo-Aramaic language Turoyo (Jastrow 1993) as a window into theoretical issues at the syntax/morphology and morphology/phonology interfaces, including cyclicity, derivational timing, and constraints on allomorphy.

I will first show, using converging cross-modular data from allomorphy on the one hand and agreement restrictions on the other, that the suffixes to the verb base in Turoyo appear in the opposite linear order from what is expected given their underlying syntactic hierarchy: the innermost suffix is the syntactically highest, and the outermost is the lowest. (This is reminiscent of the findings of Speas 1991 and Rice 2000 for Athapaskan languages.)

Once I have motivated a basic structure for the verb word in Turoyo, I turn to a case of counterbleeding in the verbal complex. The past tense morpheme, *-wa*, has a variable linear position in the verbal complex, and interacts very differently with phonological processes as compared to morphological processes; more specifically, *-wa* is visible in its surface position to phonology, but is invisible in this position to allomorphy. I propose that *-wa* is an infix, and show how this analysis—coupled with a cyclic derivation that separates morphology from phonology—straightforwardly accounts for *-wa*’s puzzling behavior, along with the other morphological quirks of Turoyo verbs.

The analysis I put forward has several consequences for the architecture of the grammar, in particular, in arguing against incorporating allomorph choice and infixation into the phonology (contra, e.g., McCarthy & Prince 1993, Kager 1996, Wolf 2008), and in supporting cyclic, serial, realizational models that both separate syntax from exponent choice, and separate exponent choice from phonology (along the lines of Paster 2006, Embick 2010, and Bye & Svenonius 2012).