Raptures and ruptures in morphological analysis

A new morpheme came up today! It’s great. I have absolutely no idea what it does or what its distribution is, and I’ve never seen anything like it in other Yolŋu languages.

Hmm, well, it’s not quite true that I know nothing about it, although what I do know doesn’t help. I know that it has the form -ḻu, and that it occurs only on the imperative/secondary forms of verbs. It has a strong preference for transitive verbs of the -ma/-ŋu conjugation. I tried other tenses, but najing. Other verbs, but mostly najing. I thought for a sec it might be a causative, because one verb had it in the place where other Yolŋu languages have the causative, but that doesn’t seem to be true either. It doesn’t seem to be a directional, since it can co-occur with -bal ‘this way’ at least. I thought it might be a reduced form of a pronoun, but that doesn’t fit either, unless it’s the ‘lost’ *nhulu form which has mysteriously retroflexed itself.

There was another new morpheme a few days ago, but that’s less puzzling because it’s –nyirili and is clearly a nominal form (I think it’s in Djinang). Still don’t know what it does really but there are ways to test that.

I thought of a wonderful way to test some phonetics the other day. There’s a set of apparent minimal pairs: burr’thun and burr’yun, baḻyun and baḻthun, and so on. They are puzzling because -yun or -thun is normally conditioned by the preceding consonant. There’s also some words where the form is -tjun, not -thun (e.g. buny’tjun ‘smoke’). Since Yan-nhaŋu haä clusters of the form -ṯtj, and so on, it might be that these -thu words really have a stop there. Maybe it should be buḻtthun. Now, most -thun verbs form causatives in -miyama, so this should be a way to test stems, right? I tried it this morning. Gabatthun ‘run’ produces a causative gabatmiyama. Success! However, none of the other verbs I tried appear to be able to be causativised. Damn. (I tried reduplication, too, but the reduplicant is CV for most of these verbs, so it doesn’t really help. Reduplication also isn’t completely productive.)


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