[Lingtyp] Languages with multiple debonding of bound morphemes?

Jussi Ylikoski jussi.ylikoski at oulu.fi
Fri Jan 12 18:34:01 UTC 2018

Dear colleagues,

I would like to hear about possible typological parallels to a little-studied morphological (diachronic) feature in North Saami.

I apologize for the lengthy introduction:

Many of you may have heard about probably the best known grammatical morpheme in North Saami, haga 'without', a former abessive case suffix (-haga) that has degrammaticalized into a postposition and ultimately a free adverb and a preposition. North Saami has a quite fusional inflectional morphology, and derivational morphology is quite fusional as well. However, there are also a number of disyllabic suffixes that are by definition much less fusional, and I have proposed that one of the reasons for degrammaticalization – or at least a morphological feature of debonding – may lie in the fact that in a fusional language like North Saami, non-fusional morphemes like -haga are prone to be perceived as words (such as disyllabic adpositions) rather than as (otherwise maximally monosyllabic) case markers.

What is interesting here is that I am aware of as many as about a dozen other disyllabic suffixes that are occasionally experiencing partly similar debonding in North Saami. Apologizing for a little self-promotion, I am referring to my recent paper on haga and a partly similar instance of degrammaticalization, and quote myself as follows:

It may be added that in North Saami there are a number of similar but considerably less degrammaticalized morphemes that may occasionally undergo debonding, namely conjunction reduction à la vuoiddas- ja ostonagaid ‘stains of grease and willow bark’ (30) and varra- ja guomonaga ‘stained with blood and chyme’ (33). Such morphemes have been discussed in Ylikoski (2009: 116–128, 200–201) where it is conjectured that such phenomena could in principle be regarded as tentative symptoms of a wholesale “degrammaticalization drift” in North Saami; a situation in which somewhat atypical disyllabic suffixes seem to represent an intermediate stage on the way to a more clitic-like status for many of the present-day suffixes. Examples mentioned in Ylikoski (2009) include, among others, the verb forms hála- ja čále-dettiin [speak and write-cvb.sim] ‘when speaking and writing’ and bora- ja juga-keahttá [eat and drink-cvb.neg] ‘without eating and drinking’ instead of ordinary converbs háladettiin ja čáledettiin and borakeahttá ja jugakeahttá id., nouns like nuorra-ja olmmái-vuohta [young and man-hood] ‘youth and manhood’ instead of nuorravuohta ja olmmáivuohta and adjectives like áhče- ja eatne-heapme [father- and mother-less] ‘fatherless and motherless’ instead of áhčeheapme ja eatneheapme. In a way, situations in which such morphemes stand out as quite atypical for affixes are reminiscent of Norde’s (2001; 2009: 206–207) thoughts on deflexion as impetus to degrammaticalization of morphemes like English and Scandinavian s-genitive and Irish muid ‘we’.

Ylikoski, Jussi. 2016. “Degrammaticalization in North Saami: Development of adpositions, adverbs and a free lexical noun from inflectional and derivational suffixes. Finnisch-Ugrische Mitteilungen 40: 113–173. Available at http://cc.oulu.fi/~jylikosk/filer/fum40_ylikoski.pdf

I wish to emphasize that most if not all the inflectional and derivational suffixes I am referring to go back to ancient Proto-Saami or even Proto-Uralic suffixes. For example, unlike English -less in "father- and motherless", the suffix -heapme in áhče- ja eatne-heapme [father- and mother-less] is regarded as having an age-long past as a suffix only. In other words, from a comparative Uralicist perspective, the above examples are about as strange as "speak- and writing", "eat- and drinking" or "grammati- and degrammaticalization" in English.

My question: I wonder if there are many languages that behave like North Saami in this respect? More precisely, I would be especially interested in languages that have experienced a similar "wholesale degrammaticalization drift" or "debonding drift" in the sense that there are many individual (originally) bound morphemes that have turned out to be not necessarily that bound after all.

Best regards,

Jussi Ylikoski


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