Jour : 14 janvier 2022

Séminaires Llacan

Séminaire du Llacan – mercredi 26 janvier 2022 – Louise ESHER : «Morphological units in Swahili verb inflection»

Le mercredi 26 janvier 2022, de 10h à 11h, Louise ESHER fera un exposé intitulé «Morphological units in Swahili verb inflection».

Résumé : Standard Swahili is commonly cited as an example of ‘agglutinating’ inflection, usually analysed as concatenation of morphemes according to a position-class template comprising a series of slots and an inventory of the exponents which can appear within each. The slots are conventionally labelled as representing morphological features or feature values.

The popularity of ‘constructive’ analyses of Swahili, proceeding from individual morphemes to full words, reflects the fact that it is near-exhaustively possible to segment Swahili verb forms into distinct substrings, and to assign these substrings to position classes. Yet the status of the substrings themselves invites question. Constructive analyses overlook several known examples of cumulative, overlapping and extended exponence, and of mismatch between function and slot, as well as the fact that not all inflectional forms require or even permit certain slots to be filled, i.e. inflectional contrasts can be expressed by distinctive combinations of filled and unfilled slots. Furthermore, in both human and machine learning of Swahili, segmentation is possible without knowledge of meaning; the process illustrated is one in which subword units are inferred by generalisation across multiple inflected wordforms, as in ‘abstractive’, word-based approaches.

These observations combine to indicate that abstractive, paradigmatic approaches are of demonstrable descriptive advantage over morpheme-based approaches, even for near-canonical, ‘agglutinative’ systems such as that of Swahili.


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