There's this concept related to how Semitic verbs conjugation - not the vocalic templates, more a logical consequence of them - that I think is really interesting. How they manage to communicate TAM information without having dedicated TAM affixes.

Like, Semitic verbs 1) encode TAM - TAM information isn't just contextual or communicated by other elements of the phrase like temporal adverbs, and 2) the TAM is marked - there are separate e.g. past vs. future forms that are visibly different; there's a modification you have to make to the stem to encode it, TAM isn't just inherent in the stem or something, but 3) TAM is not encoded by a dedicated TAM-encoding morpheme. In e.g. iprus vs. iparras, one is past and one is present, but there isn't a specific morpheme you can point to and say "that's the past(/present) tense marker". There isn't a segment there that's analogous to, say, English -ed.

I have been looking for a name for this concept - explicitly marking a category... without having a specific morpheme that marks it? "non-decomposable TAM" is the closest I can think of but judging from the paucity of Google results it's apparently one I invented that no one else uses. I want to find other languages that implement this sort of thing, just not necessarily via Semitic's "template" system. What's the relevant search term?

("Apophony/ablaut/vowel gradation/non-concatenative morphology" is also not quite what I'm getting at - again, I feel like there must be other ways of implementing it besides Semitic's vowel template system specifically, potentially concatenative strategies, I just don't know what they are yet - that's what I'm trying and failing to look up)

  • How about English strong verbs, like run vs ran? (Or Latin ablauting verbs for that matter, venit vs vēnit.) Sometimes the concept of a "morpheme" just isn't very helpful, and I'd say this is one of those times.
    – Draconis
    Oct 7, 2023 at 4:47
  • Among other oddities (like only using pied-piped relative pronouns), English relative infinitives (the man to talk to, the man to do the job) always imply a weak deontic (like should), but with practically naked morphology.
    – jlawler
    Oct 7, 2023 at 21:38


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