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Are word-formation processes preferred for some parts of speech and semantic fields? Wichi (Mataguayan): A case study
Conferencia; Word-Formation Theory II ? Typology and Universals in Word-Formation III; 2015
Word-formation has been focus of different theoretical and typological studies over the last decade (Stekauer and Lieber 2005, Corbett and Baerman 2006, Lieber and Stekauer 2014, Audring and Masini, forthcoming, among others). Intending to contribute to these studies, this paper analyzes the differences of proportion and distribution of the word-formation processes within the vocabulary of the Wichi language (Mataguayan‒also known as Matacoan). I will argue that some word-formation processes are preferred for some semantic fields and word-classes, and that these preferences contribute to the organization of the vocabulary. The analysis is based on two quantitatively and qualitatively representative Wichi vocabularies. The first one comprises 3,000 words distributed in 24 semantic fields (according to Haspelmath and Tadmor 2009). It includes all of the word-classes of this language (nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, interrogatives, conjunctions, illocutionary markers, and numerals), and contains stems, derived words, compounds, verbs formed by lexical noun incorporation and ideophones. The second lexical database contains 1,000 words referring to place-names and people-names. The latter is relevant in this study because most of them are derived words from the vocabulary using special suffixes (Vidal 2014).The word-formation processes in Wichi‒derivation, composition, lexical noun incorporation, conversion and onomatopoeia‒ are used in different proportion within the semantic fields and word-classes. In the former case, for example, derivation by suffixation is frequently preferred for creating nouns from a particular vegetable class. Most of names of wooden plants (trees, bushes, lianas or creepers) and community of wooden plants are formed by deriving the base referring to the fruit with two different special suffixes (eg. fwa?a ?carob fruit (Prosopis alba)?, fwa?a-yekw ?carob plant?, fwa?a-chat ?community of carobs?). Composition is more used than derivation in the semantic fields of body and animals, for example. Onomatopeia is frequently used to create ideophones referring basically to birds (eg. tshohok [tsohõq] ?Southern screamer?, ts?iya [ts?ija] ?Chimango caracara?). Moreover, reduplication is combined with onomatopoeia in some cases (i.e. m?alh-m?alh [?maɬˈ?maɬ] ?Greater wagtail-tyrant?, ch?ay-ch?ay [č?ajˈč?aj] ?Crested gallito?). Unlike derivation, composition is highly infrequent in some semantic fields, like sense perception, cognition, speech and language, kinship.Regarding word-classes, nouns and verbs are the most likely to be derived. Conversely, derived adverbials are conspicuously less common. In fact, special suffixes to derive adverbs are not found. Still, some nominal and verbal categories (like demonstratives, tense or directionals) combine with adverbs, nouns or conjunctions to create an adverb (eg., hotetsu ?like that (towards there)? < hote=tsu [], pajche ?a long time ago? ?in the old days? < paj=che []). Additionally, whereas nouns may be formed by derivation and composition, verbs are highly frequently created by derivation and noun incorporation. It is extremely rare to find compounded verbs. Convertion is frequently used when forming denominal verbs and it is only applied to alienable nouns.This interesting unequal distribution of word-formation could be determined in part for (i) grammatical reasons (e.g., the development of particular derivational suffixes that create sets of words within the vocabulary), and (ii) cultural factors (e.g., the preference for naming animals, plants, things, places and people according to their physical characteristics and behaviors for which compounds are usefully metaphoric).