The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 3/18: Colin Davis on Azeri suppletion

Speakers: Colin Davis (MIT)
Title: Mismatched suppletion in Azeri as morphology/phonology competition
Time: Monday, March 18th, 5-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: (longer PDF version available at http://tinyurl.com/colin-morphun)

In this paper, I examine a puzzle about suppletion in the northern dialect of Azeri/Azerbaijani (Turkic). I focus on suppletion of the perfect (PRF) / evidential (EVID) morpheme, whose default form is -miʃ. My fieldwork work has found, in agreement with Oztopcu (2003), that this morpheme has an allomorph -Ib that is typically only used with 2nd and 3rd person subjects:
(1)    a.  o      gatʃ-mɨʃ/ɨb                                     
             1SG run-PRF-3SG                                            
             ’He/she/it has run’        

        b.  biz   dʒal-miʃ/*ib-ij   
             1PL come-PRF-1PL                              
             ‘We have come’  

However, I have found that in contexts where multiple adjacent instances of -miʃ would surface, one of those instances is realized as -Ib, even when the subject is 1st person:

(2)    a.  biz  gatʃ-ɨb-mɨʃ-1ɣ                                                   1PL run-PRF-EVID-1PL                                      
            ’Apparently we had run’                                       

         b.  man je-maj       je-ib-miʃ-am  
              1SG eat-NMLZ eat-EVID-PRF-1SG  
             ‘Apparently I ate food’  

Since -Ib suppletion typically requires a 2nd/3rd person subject, we would have expected the 1st person subjects in (2) to make -Ib unavailable. Why did -Ib suppletion in (2) succeed? I argue that this over-application of suppletion in (2) occurs due to a phonological constraint against forms with adjacent identical morphemes (Menn & MacWhinney 1984, Plag 1998, Yip 1998, a.o.). This phonologically-forced morphological mismatch provides new evidence that morpheme insertion interacts and competes with phonological constraints (Wolf 2008, 2009, Pertsova 2015).