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Dissertation Information

Title: The Syntax and Semantics of Stem Composition in Ojicree Add Dissertation
Author: Tanya Slavin Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Degree Awarded: University of Toronto , Department of Linguistics
Completed in:
Linguistic Subfield(s): Morphology Semantics Syntax
Subject Language(s): Ojibwa, Severn
Language Family(ies): Algonquian
Director(s): Elizabeth Cowper
Keren Rice
Susana Béjar
Norvin Richards
Diane Massam

Abstract: This thesis explores the structure of the verb stem in Ojicree, a dialect
of Ojibwe. I argue that the surface complexity of the stem structure in
this language can be explained if we distinguish between two types of
roots: strong roots and weak roots. Strong roots combine with a verbal
head to build a full stem. I call these simple stems. Weak roots build a
more complex structure. Their combination with a verbal head is not
enough to build a complete verb stem and some additional material
needs to appear to the left of the root to form a full stem. I refer to
these stems as complex stems and to the requirement posed by the
weak roots the left edge requirement. In the traditional templatic view of
the Algonquian stem weak roots correspond to an element called ‘pre-
final’ or the lexical portion of the concrete final. Strong roots fall into the
traditional slot ‘initial’. In the first part of the thesis I argue that weak
and strong roots build two fundamentally different structures. Complex
stems (build from weak roots) are dynamic syntactic constructs, while
simple stems (build from strong roots) need to be stored. I bring both
syntactic and phonological evidence for this distinction. In the second
part of the thesis I explore the nature of the left edge requirement in
complex stems, arguing that it is a semantic constraint that has to do
with event composition. Weak roots are semantically deficient
elements, and the left edge element fills a gap in their semantics and
completes event composition. The syntactic composition of the stem
reflects event composition. Finally, I extend the idea of the left edge
requirement to a certain type of noun incorporation construction. The
proposed analysis advances our understanding of the Ojicree
morphosyntax by moving away from the traditional templatic view of the
stem, situating it within the current syntactic framework of Minimalism
and proposing answers to some long standing questions from a new
perspective. More broadly, it furthers our understanding of how words
are formed in the Algonquian languages and in polysynthetic
languages in general.