The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Colloquium 2/14 - Benjamin Bruening (University of Delaware)

Speaker: Benjamin Bruening (University of Delaware)
Title: The Algonquian Prefix is an Affix, Not a Clitic: Implications for Morphosyntax
Time: Friday, February 14th, 3:30pm – 5pm
Location: 32-155

Abstract: The “consensus” in the literature is that the prefix that appears on independent order verbs in Algonquian languages is a pronominal clitic. I show that this prefix is an agreement affix, not a clitic, according to every diagnostic for clitics versus affixes that has ever been proposed. This then has significant implications for syntactic theories of morphology. The prefix always appears on the highest verbal element in the clause, while all other inflection instead goes on the lowest verbal element. In order to account for the placement of the prefix, higher verbal elements have to block affixation to lower ones; but then it is impossible to get the suffixes on the lowest verbal element. No existing accounts of verbal morphology based on head movement, lowering, Mirror Theory, or phrasal movement can account for the verbal morphology. I propose an alternative where a complex head can be built by external merge according to the clausal hierarchy, inserted low, and then copied head-by-head as the clausal spine is built, without movement.