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Understanding and Measuring Morphological Complexity$
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Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, and Greville G. Corbett

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723769

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723769.001.0001

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Morphological opacity: Rules of referral in Kanum verbs

Morphological opacity: Rules of referral in Kanum verbs

(p.53) 4 Morphological opacity: Rules of referral in Kanum verbs
Understanding and Measuring Morphological Complexity

Mark Donohue

Oxford University Press

Syncretisms in inflectional paradigms are not unusual, and present interesting but often not complicated analytical problems in a language's morphology. When paradigms are ‘invaded’ from related paradigms (e.g. TAM‐suppletive agreement forms transfer to the inflection of different TAM categories), we have a more complicated problem to deal with. Kanum, a Papuan language of south-western New Guinea, displays verbal paradigms with regular syncretisms in the inflectional paradigm, but additional, lexically specified syncretisms in different TAM paradigms, with different patterns emerging for subject and object inflection reflecting different takeovers. While different verbs have different patterns of syncretism, there are patterns in the kinds of rules of referral permitted, suggesting that ‘suppletion’ or ‘irregularity’ is not the correct way to describe the inflection. We must describe a middle ground between productive, transparent inflection, and suppletive forms without regulation.

Keywords:   Kanum, Papuan, New Guinea, referral, agreement, inflection, takeover, syncretism, morphology

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