SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Stem Structure in Eegimaa: How Compositional is Agglutinative Morphology?

Ken Safir and Mamadou Bassene (Rutgers University)

Date: 19 March 2014Time: 1:30 PM

Finishes: 19 March 2014Time: 3:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4429

Type of Event: Seminar

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Stem Structure in Eegimaa: How Compositional is Agglutinative Morphology? by Ken Safir and Mamadou Bassene


The agglutinative morphology of verb stems poses many problems for theory and analysis, insofar as distinct theoretical commitments as to what counts as a linguistic unit do not always align. The verb stem morphology of Joola-Eegimaa (Eegimaa, henceforth), an Atlantic language (Bak subfamily) of the Niger-Congo family, poses just such a challenge. We argue that an abstract analysis of the underlying syntax of Eegimaa verb stems permits the various demands of syntax, semantics and morphology to receive a unified analysis for which there is some striking empirical support. We will then show that our analysis, which relies on several operations that rearrange the structure of the stem, not only provide a revealing window into the vexing morpho-syntactic complexities of Eegimaa, but may well shed light on the  morphology of of Bantu languages, which are distant relatives of Eegimaa in both time and geography. If our analysis and the implications we draw from it are valid, then there are theoretical consequences for the role of syntax in morphology and for compositional and de-compositional analyses of the verbal spine.

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