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I've just started a linguistic course at university, we've just started Morphology this week. I am very new to the subject and I am looking for some guidance about how to approach a morphology exercise. I already studied the basic vocabulary and now I am trying to figure out how to solve practically this exercise. Being new to the topic, I find it really hard to understand what I am really suppose to do.

About question a: I tried to analyse the material and examples I had, reasoning this way.

HIS (3rd person singular, genitive)

I compared the different forms and I could assume these rules. 1) When a word starts with p and ends with u, starts with k and ends with a or starts with t and ends with a, I usually add s- at the beginning and -be at the end, and I get this "his ...(word)...". Examples: palu spalube ku:ba sku:babe tapa stapabe 2)But if a word starts with g, then I need to add a s- at the beginning and also change the g into a k, adding at the end be like in the previous case. If a word start with b, then I will have s- at the beginning, followed by p (the b turned into a p), with -be at the very end. And if a word starts with d, then I have s- at the beginning, followed by t with -be at the end.

These are the "rules" I could observe from the examples given.

YOUR (2nd person singular, genitive)

In the cases of words that start with p and ends with u, starts with k ad ends with a, starts with t and ends with a, I get "your ..(word)..." form, adding a s- at the beginning and a -lu at the end of the word. With words that have g at the beginning I will have a s- a the beginning, the g turns into a k, and lu at the end. With words that have b at the beginning I will have a s- at the beginning, the b turns into a p, and lu at the end. With words that have d at the beginning I will have s- at the beginning, the d turns into t and lu at the end.

SO, I found soooooo many rules to explain how to make a genitive form of a word in these language, how can I identify one common rule? Is there a way of simplifying this?

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    Welcome to Linguistics SE! I changed your title to a more suitable format, if you don't mind. – Ivan Kapitonov Nov 22 '15 at 12:53
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    Voiced stops in your data (b, d, g) are assimilated in voice to the voiceless possessive morpheme, s, and then you have two morphemes, be (3SG) and lu (2PL). – Alex B. Nov 22 '15 at 15:58
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You have actually answered your question.

According to the examples given, possessive is formed with the following pattern:

  • 3rd person Singular: s + root + be
  • 2nd person Plural: s + root + lu
  • Plus, voiced b/d/g in the 1st syllable of the root becomes voiceless p/t/k.

You must be confused with unability to tell whether or not the vowel matters here. The examples do not provide sufficient information to judge whether or not the vowel plays any role. Simply because there are no consistency: pa*/ta*/ku:* cant be compared to be*/do*/ge*.

In order to make sure, ask your teacher to provide with samples starting with:

  • pe*/po*/pu:*,
  • te*/to*/tu:*,
  • ka*/ke*/ko*,
  • ba*/bo*/bu:*,
  • da*/de*/du:*,
  • ga*/go*/gu:*, respectively.

Hence, all possible initial consonants (6 ones) and all possible vowels (4), minus six existing combinations = 6 * 4 - 6 = 18.

Having 18 additional examples, you will be able to tell whether or not the vowel matters.

With only 6 examples, the simplest rule applies, vowel does not matter.

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