The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 5/6: Neil Banerjee on negative allomorphy in Bengali

Speakers: Neil Banerjee (MIT)
Title: Negative allomorphy in Bengali
Time: Monday, May 6th, 5-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: Bengali (Eastern Indic) has two morphemes for sentential negation: ni is used to negate finite perfect verbs, while na is used for all other constructions. In this project, I investigate the distribution of these two morphemes, present new data from the antecedents of conditionals and from TP ellipsis, and propose a morphological analysis with implications for the mechanism of ellipsis. 

   In both antecedents and with ellipsis, perfect verbs occur with the ‘wrong’ negation, namely na. I argue that this strongly supports a morphological account of the distribution, rather than the semantic account proposed in Ramchand (2004). I present a morphological account of the facts based on Trommer’s (1999) proposal for portmanteau and a modification of Adger et al’s (2003) proposal for a labelling algorithm. I demonstrate that within a Distributed Morphology framework, inward sensitivity to morphosyntactic features is required for this account to succeed. Issues of locality of triggers and directionality of allomorphy will be discussed. Finally, based on the new evidence from ellipsis bleeding allomorphy, I argue that at least in Bengali, ellipsis must be realised as featural obliteration prior to vocabulary insertion.