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Topics in the phonology and morphology of Navajo verbs

Joyce Mary McDonough, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This thesis investigates issues in the phonology and morphology of the Navajo verb. Navajo, as an Athapaskan language, has been considered a canonical example of a slot-and-filler template, a typologically odd morphology. An alternative treatment of the verbal structure is offered: the verb is shown to have a bipartite structure consisting of two constituents that coincide with the universal categories 'Verb' and 'Infl'. This analysis has the benefit both of bringing Navajo into discourse concerned with the cross-linguistic investigation of principles governing word formation and of providing evidence for a configurational theory of morphology. The phonology provides the bulk of the arguments for the bipartite structure. Prosodic phenomena provide a consilience of arguments for the structure; syllable theory predicts the existence of an internal word boundary in the verbal template, segments at the boundaries shows the edge effects of extraprosodicity. An elegant account of a pervasive but illusive epenthesis process can be given based on this structure. Several traditional problems involving the characterization of the phonology required to account for the morpheme concatenation of the template are solved. The bipartite structure is then exploited in an examination of the segmental phonology. The alternations found on the initial consonants of the verb stem are taken up. An association of glides to a pattern of fricative phonology is uncovered which allows the unraveling of intricate glide/consonant and glide/vowel alternations on verb stems. It is proposed that two fricative types exist in the language, type A, the regular fricative, and type B, a fricative type that shows glides as reflexes. This analysis, extended to glide alternations in the Infl constituent, shows promising results towards unraveling the phonology of the verbal prefixes.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

McDonough, Joyce Mary, "Topics in the phonology and morphology of Navajo verbs" (1990). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9110184.