Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

What's in a Verb? Studies in the Verbal Morphology of the Languages of the Americas

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

What's in a Verb? Studies in the Verbal Morphology of the Languages of the Americas

Article excerpt

What's in a Verb? Studies in the Verbal Morphology of the Languages of the Americas. ED. BY GRAZYNA J. ROWICKA and EITHNE B. CARLIN. UTRECHT: LOT, 2006. PP. 252, PAPERBACK 24.49 [euro]

This book is a compilation of twelve articles, the first five of which deal with indigenous languages of North and Central America, while the remaining seven papers concentrate on South American languages. In the introduction the editors state three purposes for the book. First of all, it aims to recognize the importance of the study of Native American languages for the development of linguistics in the twentieth century. The editors also hope that this collection of diverse papers will encourage interaction among fields that have become specialized by region or language. The third objective is to recognize the contribution of Dutch linguistics in the field; all of the articles are by Dutch linguists or by linguists associated with Dutch institutions. This third goal accounts for the fact that the papers are not representative of the Americas; for example, there are five papers to represent North and Central America, two of which are Salish. The other two North American languages are from the Athabascan and Algonquian families, and Metzontla Popoloc is the sole Central American language. The lack of representation for the other language families is understandable given the small number of papers and the requirement that the authors have a Dutch connection. At the same time, an additional few pages outlining the history and contribution of Dutch linguistics to the description of Native American languages would help to tie these articles together. The collection is divided into two sections for 'North and Central America' and 'South America.' I offer here a brief summary of each paper's central points.

PLAINS CREE. In the first paper, 'Algonquian verb structure: Plains Cree' (3-27), Peter Bakker describes the structure of verb stems and the order of affixes that attach to the stem. This paper is a good mixture of descriptive linguistics with a typological approach, and at the end of the paper he speculates about a possible historical shift within the language family from suffixation to prefixation to express categories of tense, aspect, mood, and person. Bakker begins his article with an overview of several features of Cree verbal morphology, including an inclusive/exclusive distinction, obviation, direct/inverse marking, and agreement with noun animacy. In the next section he briefly discusses the structure of the Algonquian verb, using examples to illustrates Ives Goddard's analysis of these stems into initial, medial, and final elements. He then briefly reviews five templates that have been used to describe the order of affixes before offering his own revised template. The revised template 'displays the whole theoretical range of morphemes' (16) by including extinct or rare morphemes. This discussion of affix order leads to a broader discussion of universal properties of such orderings. Five specific models of affix order are reviewed, including Joan Bybee's approach, which states that relevancy to the verb will determine the affix's relative proximity to the verb. The author favors the Functional Grammar approach that establishes levels of ordering from 'most basic' to 'most general.' Bakker concludes by suggesting that further research examine the apparent shift from postverbal to preverbal for the tense, aspect, mood, and person markers.

LILLOOET TRANSITIVE VERB INFLECTION. Jan P. van Eijk analyzes pronominal marking on transitive verbs in 'Typological aspects of Lillooet transitive verb inflection' (29-51). After an initial overview of the types of word classes, van Eijk briefly describes the four basic types of transitive verbs. He then focuses on the four functions served by one in particular, the 'plain-directive transitivizers.' An intriguing feature of this verbal system is a transitivizing suffix found on all transitive verbs; intransitive verbs, by contrast, do not always bear an intransitivizing suffix. …

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