Yearbook of Morphology 2002

Part of the series Yearbook of Morphology pp 245-281

Suffix ordering in Bantu: a morphocentric approach

  • Larry M. HymanAffiliated withDept. of Linguistics, University of California at Berkeley

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Summary and Conclusions

In the previous sections I have presented a number of arguments in favor of the view that suffix ordering in Bantu is templatic in the default case. In almost all Bantu languages, causative and applicative suffixes must appear in a single fixed order. Where suffixes occur in two different orders, e.g. CAUS and REC, one sequence is licensed by the general CARP template, while the other is attributable to a specific MIRROR constraint referring to that sequence. The striking conclusion to drawn from this study is that there is no evidence that Bantu suffix ordering is driven by semantic compositionality or by a general Mirror Principle. Instead, these pressures are low-ranked in Bantu and, when present, have a limited effect on the overall system, as we have seen.27 That Bantu suffix ordering is largely templatic is also supported by phonological conditions which enter into the realization of suffix combinations.28 As I have also implied, the elaborated synchronic CARCP template in (28) is in part arbitrary, the product of history. This conclusion thus challenges the fundamental approach of those who have cited Bantu derivational suffixes in support of a non-arbitrary relation between morphology and syntax, or between morphology and semantics. Whether or not such relations occur elsewhere, Bantu suffixation provides strong evidence for the autonomy of morphology.