Catégorie : Amerindia N°41 – 2019

Power-laws and preferential attachment in linguistic morphology: Evidence from Meʔpá verb classes

Through extensive analysis it can be shown that the organization of the highly complex Meʔpá (Azoyú Tlapanec) verbal paradigms is for the most part transparently based on the expression of grammatical categories, even if these categories are sometimes typologically unfamiliar. There are also phonological principles at work in defining various subclasses, even if these are sometimes also difficult to unravel. However, within one of the grammatically defined classes it is necessary to operate with subclasses that are truly arbitrary. This concerns the tonal paradigms of semantically transitive verbs taking a high-impact (ergative) animate agent and an inanimate undergoer. For these, person inflection is tonal, and 24 different tonal paradigms have been identified. Apart from negative evidence –absence of non-arbitrary phonological, semantic or grammatical determinants of class membership– it is also possible to observe positive evidence that class membership is essentially stochastic. First, the sizes of the classes follow a power-law distribution (with a few large classes, some intermediate ones and many small ones, resulting in a straight line having a negative slope when size is plotted as a function of rank of size using log-log scales). Secondly, the more members a tonal class has, the more similar it is to other classes. Together, these two characteristics bear witness to a diachronic trajectory involving the principle of preferential attachment, which also governs many natural and social phenomena.

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Las clases flexivas verbales del zapoteco de Zoochina

Zoochina Zapotec (Zapotecan, Oto-Manguean) has two independent but crisscrossing systems of verbal classification. One is an affixal system and it involves the selection of different sets of prefixal inflections for the incompletive, completive and irrealis. This allomorphy results into four inflectional classes. The other system involves two stem alternation patterns for the irrealis. Affixal classes I and II interact with the stem classes in interesting ways, resulting into four mixed classes. The inflectional system I describe for Zoochina Zapotec is very innovative with regard to other Zapotec languages.

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From ‘complexity’ to ‘simplexity’: A diasystemic approach to Mazatec inflectional classes

Mazatec provides a good example for the internal variation in inflectional class systems within a large dialectal continuum. This chapter provides first-hand data on a few Mazatec dialects over the Highlands and Midlands dialects, highlighting a number of important issues beyond the specific properties already known about this language in terms of inflectional complexity. The chapter is a first attempt to provide a comprehensive diasystemic description and modeling of this variation. We propose that disentangling this complexity by way of the concept of ‘symplexity’ is as important as describing intricate patterns within an inflectional system.

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Inflectional Verb Classes in Acazulco Otomi

Acazulco Otomi (Oto-Pamean, Oto-Manguean) is an endangered language spoken by about 200 elderly people in San Jerónimo Acazulco, a village located 35 km Southwest from Mexico City (Mexico). The language is tonal, verb-initial and headmarking. This language has four inflectional classes of verbs, which differ from each other (a) in the allomorphs of tense-aspect-mood proclitics they select, and (b) in the type of stem alternations they present across their paradigm. Although class membership is a lexical property for each particular verb, the existence of verb pairs across different classes suggests that the classes emerged from valence-changing morphological strategies that are no longer productive nowadays. This chapter shows how the historical development of inflectional classes of verbs in Acazulco Otomi might have occurred. In addition, it discusses the possibility that one of these classes, which I treat as class IV, may still be under the process of lexicalization.

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Layered complexity in Zenzontepec Chatino verbal inflectional classes

Most verbs in Zenzontepec Chatino fall into one of seven inflectional classes according to which allomorphs of the aspect/mood prefixes they occur with (Campbell 2011), and they also fall into one of nine tone alternation patterns across the different inflectional categories. The intersection of these two layers of inflection, and some further irregularities within them, yields 39 distinct prefix-tone classes. Some of the prefix-tone classes are well populated, while others have only a few or even just one verb in them. Meanwhile, there are another 29 irregular verbs in the language that have either some stem suppletion or some exceptional prefixal inflection, bringing the number of distinct inflectional patterns up to 68. There are only 378 basic verbs that fall into these 68 inflectional patterns. The layered complexity of aspect/mood inflection, with the large number of small, even singleton, classes that it creates, blurs the line between inflectional classes and irregular verbs. While it makes sense to consider the more frequent patterns as inflectional classes, the less frequent patterns might just as well be considered irregular verbs instead of very small inflectional classes. Ultimately, there is no clear choice of exactly where such a line should be drawn between inflectional classes and irregular verbs, and Zenzontepec Chatino verbal inflection raises interesting and challenging questions for morphological typology.

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Southern Zapotec Verb Classes

This paper provides a detailed description of inflectional classes of verbs based on TAM-marking morphology in Coatec Zapotec. This description is then used as a standard for comparison with other Zapotec languages spoken in the Southern Sierra region of Oaxaca, Mexico, which is considered by the author to be a diffusion zone. A comparison of 14 varieties belonging to five languages finds that the most diverse TAMmarking systems are found in the western part of the Southern Sierra while the system of inflectional classes greatly simplifies as one moves eastward. Contact and diffusion are considered to be crucial in the retention or loss of conservative features and the spread of innovations such as nasalization of certain prefixes.

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Inflectional class complexity in the Oto-Manguean languages

In this paper we introduce the object of study of this special issue of Amerindia, the inflectional classes of the Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico, together with their most relevant typological characteristics. These languages are rich both in the variety of their inflectional systems, and in the way these are split into inflection classes. In effect, the full typological range of possible inflection class systems can be found just in this one stock of languages. This is illustrated through a survey of the variety of morphological forms, assignment principles, and paradigm structure, as well as the effects of combining multiple inflection class systems across different exponents within a single word form.

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A morphophonological parameter hierarchy for Amuzgo glottalization classes

Inflectional marking of person and number of subject in the verbs of Amuzgo (Eastern Oto-Manguean) involves various stem-internal morphophonological alternations. One such alternation type is in glottalization: stem vowels can alternate between laryngealized, post-glottalized, and plain versions in different paradigm cells. Based on an extensive database of verbal paradigms compiled by native speaker Fermín Tapia García, this paper establishes an inventory of glottalization classes for the San Pedro Amuzgos variety and proposes a hierarchy of morphophonological parameters which define all and only the five productive patterns. The approach follows feature-based analyses of inflectional class structure. I argue that it is possible to posit underlying forms plus a limited set of operations that derive the stem alternations, in a way that develops a theory of internal relationships among the glottalization classes. The proposed analysis makes predictions about natural-class behavior among glottalization classes, as well as impossible paradigm types, which appear to be borne out by the data.

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