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Word-Formation in Polysynthetic Languages: Noun Incorporation in Wichi (Mataguayan)
Conferencia; Universals and Typology in Word-Formation II Conference; 2012
This paper builds on my research on Wichi (Nercesian 2011a), undertaken in the province of Formosa and Chaco, Argentina, as well as on previous studies on the morphology-phonology interaction (Nercesian 2011b). Wichi is a Mataguayan language spoken by approximately 40,000 people in Gran Chaco, South America. This study analyzes a type of noun incorporation as a word-formation process entailing the interaction between morphology and phonology, and morphology-syntax.   On the one hand, incorporation is associated with a special prosodic structure that is very predictable and systematically applied to the new verb. It consists of two unbounded feet, which are formed from the binding of the two elements (V+N), and a stress-stem type rule. The primary stress is applied to the first syllable of the incorporated noun root and the secondary stress on the verbal root, see (1)-(2).   (1)        (    x)(x          )              /i.wù.pó.se.ta/              iwu+poset-a              3SUB:do+beak/lip-IC             ‘He/she whistles.’ (2)       (    x)(x        )             /i.wù.ʔé.ɬa.hi/             iwu+’elh-a=hi             3SUB:do+other-IC=LOC             ‘He/she changes.’  This prosodic structure results exclusively from noun incorporation as a word-formation process. Note that the complex word resulting from noun incorporation can be, in turn, derived by a locative or directional clitic (i.e. (2)), as occurs with simple verbal bases. The incorporated noun can be alienable or inalienable, basic or derived. Only two verbs can be used to incorporate nouns, iwuye ‘to do’ and yenlhi ‘to make’. Other types of Wichi noun incorporation do not consist of a word-formation process. They are pragmatically motivated, have syntactic analogs and follow the regular stress pattern (the primary stress on the head of the rightmost iambic foot in the phonological word. The secondary stress appears to fall on alternating syllables counting from left to right). On the other hand, noun incorporation is a morphological construction that entails a syntactic relationship between the verb and the incorporated noun, as was noted by Mithun (1984; 1986; 1999; 2000) for other languages. Moreover, it can produce the promotion of the possessor to object (i.e. (3)-(4)):   (3)       (     x)( x      ) /n̩.wù.’wé.ja/ n’-wu+w’ey-a 1SUB-do+clothes-IC ‘I get dressed.’ (4)       (     x)(      x      )             /n̩.wù.ha.’wé.ja/             n’-wu+ha-w’ey-a             1SUB-do+2POSS-clothes-IC             ‘I dress you.’                At the end of the new verb, a suffix -a is added closing the morphosyntactic construction. The prosodic structure, as examples (1)-(4) show, highlights the morphosyntactic edge of the two elements of the word. Semantically, the verb that results from the noun incorporation denotes a single meaning that generally refers to a traditional or daily activity. This paper is a contribution in several senses. Firstly, very little is known about prosodic phenomena in other Chaco languages and, therefore, the relationship between word-formation processes and prosody has not been discussed. Secondly, the morphology-phonology and morphology-syntax interactions are also frequent in other word-formation processes in the languages of the area. For that reason they represent an interesting topic for the studies on morphology. Lastly, one of the most striking linguistic phenomena in polysynthetic languages is the multilevel interaction in word-formation and the way in which the language prioritizes one level over another. In this sense, this paper offers new data for theoretical studies on morphology.