• Navajo Verbal Prefixes in Current Morphological Theory

      Speas, Peggy (University of Arizona Linguistics Circle, 1982)
      During the last few years, there has been increasing interest in the principles of word formation and structure, which are thought to be "distinct and separate from the principles of sentence formation." (Allen 1978:2) The earlier of the proposals for the organization of the morphological component (eg. Allen (1978), Siegel (1974), Aronoff (1976)) dealt only with derivational morphology? Inflectional morphology was presumed to fall within the domain of syntax, and therefore was not expected to adhere to the same principles or utilize the same machinery as derivational morphology. Recently, several morphological theories have been proposed which provide a uniform set of machinery for accomplishing all inflectional and derivational morphological processes within the lexicon. These theories, in which words "emerge" from the lexicon fully formed, can yield interesting results for syntax, as illustrated in Farmer (1980). The majority of these modals of word formation within a generative grammar have been based on English or other (rather closely related) Indo-European languages. In this paper, we intend to investigate the claims of some recent morphological theories using facts from Navajo, an Athabaskan language with a rich polysynthetic system of morphology. In particular, we will investigate the applicability of the theories of Lieber (1980) and Williams (1981) to Navajo's elaborate verbal prefix system. In Section 1, we will outline the facts of Navajo verbal morphology which must be dealt with in a morphological theory. We will show that the Navajo verbal prefixes display a striking pattern of internal organization that has not been noticed before. In Sections 2 and 3, we will outline the proposals of Lieber and Williams, respectively, discussing the applicability of each to Navajo. In Section 4, we will describe the type of system which would be appropriate for the Navajo verb. In this regard we will address the question of hierarchical structure in Navajo verbal morphology. In Section 5, we will address the general questions which our study of Navajo raises for general morphological theory: 1) How are the differences between derivational and inflectional morphology to be characterized? and 2) How does this characterization bear on the possible parameters of a typology of morphological structure?