Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 559–624 | Cite as

Nimboran position class morphology

  • Sharon Inkelas


The verbal morphemes in the Papuan language Nimboran are rigidly ordered; moreover, morphemes with identical ordering properties are in complementary distribution. This suggests that verbal morphemes belong to position classes, each permitting at most one member to surface. Certain morphemes belong simultaneously to more than one position class, with corresponding blocking of all morphemes in the relevant classes. A striking generalization is that position classes blocked in this joint fashion must be contiguous.

The problem is that linear order and blocking diagnose two incompatible orderings for the position classes. The solution rests in reinterpreting verbalpositions as levels in a fixed morphological hierarchy; we resolve the ordering paradox by exploiting the distinction between dominance and precedence available in a hierarchical structure.

This paper adduces new support for the theory of level-ordering and offers a formal theory of position class morphology, a well-known phenomenon which deserves attention in morphological theory. It also covers a large corpus of data — and certain phenomena — not previously discussed in the generative literature.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon Inkelas
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeley

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