LINGUIST List 23.2843

Tue Jun 26 2012

Calls: Morphology/USA

Editor for this issue: Alison Zaharee <>

Date: 26-Jun-2012
From: Enrique Palancar <>
Subject: Inflectional Classes in the Languages of the Americas
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Full Title: Inflectional Classes in the Languages of the Americas
Date: 03-Jan-2013 - 06-Jan-2013 Location: Boston, MA, USA Contact Person: Enrique L. Palancar
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

Call Deadline: 13-Jul-2012

Meeting Description:

The Surrey Morphology Group (University of Surrey) is organizing a joint LSA-SSILA session entitled 'Inflectional Classes in the Languages of the Americas' for the 2013 Annual Meeting to be held during the LSA 2013 Annual Meeting in Boston, MA from 3 to 6 January 2013.

Inflectional morphology expresses grammatical information, and in an ideal world, each distinct form would correspond to a distinct meaning. But inflectional markers may also display apparently unmotivated morphological differences. For example, the present indicative of the second person in Spanish has the ending -es for some verbs and -as for others (e.g. rompes 'you break' vs. cantas 'you sing'), while in the subjunctive, the situation is reversed (e.g. rompas 'you may break' vs. cantes 'you may sing'). Often such inflectional allomorphy pervades the entire paradigm, as indeed it does in Spanish, so that a given word class falls into morphologically distinct inflection classes. Inflection classes are seemingly useless in functional terms, and yet they are widely found across languages and remarkably resilient over time.

Inflectional classes, as they resist a syntactic or phonological explanation, are in themselves an interesting object of study for a theory of language because they introduce into the linguistic system a layer of complexity which is purely morphological. This has motivated a recent interest in their study. See for example Ackerman et al. (2009), Finkel and Stump (2007), or Müller (2007) among others.

Nevertheless our knowledge of inflectional classes to date is still largely based on European languages and is thus limited by their typological characteristics. To elucidate a sound typology of inflectional classes, a comprehensive theory must expand its horizons beyond well-known languages.

In this connection, the languages of the Americas are notable for the richness of their morphological systems. The general emphasis in the analyses of such languages has been led by a quest to elucidate the complexities of their morphosyntax, that is, the aspects of their morphologies which are motivated by their syntax. This is understandable, but much less is known, for example, about the ways verbal lexemes are grouped in some American Indian languages into various classes based solely on their inflectional properties, although a number of studies have indeed revealed layers of morphological complexity in some of these languages that go far beyond the requirements of syntax, such as for example Angulo (1933) and more recently Blevins (2005) and Campbell (2011), among others.

On the other hand, in the canonical case membership in an inflectional class is random; that is to say, a given lexeme is a member of a certain inflectional class not because of its phonological or semantic properties. However, there are interesting borderline cases where membership in a class is partially random and partially motivated by more general principles. Such borderline cases reveal ways that allow inflectional classes to emerge in linguistic systems and ways that may help language users to maintain them over time. In this regard, studies based on lesser known languages can help to enhance our understanding of the role played by such factors in how inflectional classes operate, especially when there are major classes competing in the partition of the lexicon of a given language.

2nd Call for Papers:

We welcome papers with either a descriptive or a theoretical approach to the inflectional classes of one or several of the indigenous languages of the Americas. Such studies can help us to establish a firm empirical foundation for the study of the relation between the lexicon and the morphology.

The following is a list of possible topics that we would like the session to tackle in some way or another.

- Differences between semantic verb classes and more canonical inflectional classes- Principles governing lexeme class membership in inflectional classes- Degree of inflectional overlap across the paradigms of different classes- Degree of predictability of class assignment from a given form in the paradigm- Inflectional class structure: apart from affixal morphology, what is the role of stem alternation patterns in inflectional classes?- Diachronic aspects of inflectional classes

Please submit your abstract in keeping with LSA 2013 Annual Meeting Abstract Guidelines and Specifications (available at by email attachment (as Word, RTF or PDF files - please use PDF if special fonts are used) to:

References Cited:

Ackerman, Farrell, James P. Blevins, & Robert Malouf. 2009. Parts and wholes: Implicative patterns in inflectional paradigms. In James P. Blevins & Juliette Blevins (eds.), Analogy in grammar: form and acquisition. Oxford: OUP, 54-82.

Angulo, Jaime. 1933. The Chichimeco Language, International Journal of American Linguistics 7: 152-194.

Blevins, Juliette. 2005. Yurok verb classes. International Journal of American Linguistics 71(3): 327-349.

Campbell, Eric. 2011. Zenzontepec Chatino Aspect Morphology and Zapotecan Verb Classes. International Journal of American Linguistics 77(2): 219-246.

Finkel, Raphael and Gregory T. Stump. 2007. Principal parts and morphological typology. Morphology 17.39-75.

Müller, Gereon. 2007. Notes on paradigm economy. Morphology 17.1-38.

Page Updated: 26-Jun-2012