The Affix Ordering in Typological Perspective


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Ling ZHANG


Awarding Institution
Award date20 Jul 2015


This thesis examines layered and templatic affix paradigms as well as their four defining features (‘headedness’, ‘lookahead’, ‘adjacency’, ‘zero morpheme’) in a sample of 100 typologically representative languages of the world.
Traditionally, languages employ layered morphology or templatic morphology to linearize affixes. Layered and templatic morphology can be distinguished by opposite behavior with respect to the following four properties: 1. Layered morphology is headed, while template morphology is not. 2. Zero morphemes are prevalent in template morphology but not in layered morphology. 3. Lookahead is a property of “discontinuous dependencies” (nonadjacent morphemes mutually impose selectional restrictions) and is characteristic of templatic morphology but not of layered morphology. 4. Layered morphology is constrained by principles of adjacency, template morphology is not.
We begin our discussion with a survey of the clitics in Mandarin Chinese (chapter 1) and find that it displays layered verb morphology and that clitic order is cognitively motivated, a situation which we model by Hengeveld (1989)’s functional clause model.
Chapters 2-4 investigate ‘headedness’, ‘lookahead’, ‘adjacency’, and ‘zero morpheme’ in a sample of 100 languages. We find that 28% (i.e. 28) languages exhibit Headedness which is characteristic of layered morphology (chapter 2). All languages with the headedness property also satisfy the adjacency constraint, but, somewhat unexpectedly, 21 of 28 languages exhibit zero morphemes.
Zero morphemes are supposed to be prevalent in template morphology but not in layered morphology (chapter 3). 89% (i.e. 89) languages in our study have zero morphemes. Contrary to what the previous discussion may lead us to expect (e.g. Simpson and Withgott 1986), in these 89 languages, 24% (i.e. 21) languages have headedness, and 86% (i.e. 76) languages adhere to the adjacency constraint, which are traits of layered morphology.
Only 11% (i.e. 11) sample languages can be found with the property of Lookahead/Lookback, which is characteristic of templatic morphology not of layered morphology (chapter 4). All of them incorporate meaningful zero morphemes and have no headedness. These correlations are in line with the discussion in the literature on affix order.
The most surprising finding is that Adjacency, which is traditionally regarded as a characteristic of layered morphology, is very common in our sample of languages (chapter 4): 89% (i.e. 89) languages display the adjacency constraint. 74 of these 89 languages allow zero morphemes, and only 29/89 languages satisfy the headedness property. These findings suggest that Adjacency is a property of both layered and templatic morphology, not of layered morphology alone.
Therefore, this thesis brings some revisions to the conventional typology of affixal paradigms in morphology, namely that adjacency is only a property of languages with layered morphology and that zero morphemes mostly occur in templatic languages (chapter 5). In other words, there are only two properties on which the distinction of templatic morphology and layered morphology relies: headedness and lookahead /lookback. Templatic morphology exhibits lookahead /lookback while layered morphology does not; layered morphology is headed, but template morphology is not.