Séminaire Joyce McDonough

Joyce McDonough

The Paradigmatic Lexicon : The Navajo verbal complex in Word & Pattern morphology

Abstract: The lectures will address, as a case study, the structure of the Navajo verbal complex in a a Word and Pattern (wp) framework, and in contrast to the more commonly used item-and-arrangement approach. In common with many indigenous language families in North America, the Athabaskan languages belong to a morphological type, so-called ‘polysynthetic’. Despite their wide dispersion across the northern continent, the Dene languages remain closely related, to the level of fine-grained phonetic detail, and share a distinct morphological structure traditionally characterized by a position class template of between 18-23 ‘positions’. The positions account for the distribution of morphemes, important in cross-Dene studies, but fail for word formation. The broad goal here is to provide a model of a native Dene speaker’s lexicon based on an empirical ground-up, data-driven investigation of sound forms. A bi-partite model grounded in phonetic data will be laid out by which lexemes and their inflected variants enter into paradigmatic relations with each other.  Empirical data on Navajo verb will be taken from two sources: recent instrumental phonetic data and documentation on Navajo and related northern Dene languages, and Young and Morgan’s (1987) grammar The Navajo Language. The second, topic is morphological typology, the role of position classes in comparative and typological work, such as the studies of morphotactics and polyfunctionality and the role of position in determining function. For polysynthetic morphologies in general, two striking issues are the density of the neighborhoods in which words reside (their parameters of relatedness), and the ability of speakers to recognize and retrieve words. Both are inherently related to the information present in the sound signal about structure within the word, and by extension.