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Verbal number in Lo–Toga and Hiw: The emergence of a lexical paradigm

Abstract : Several languages around the world encode number through a regular alternation between verb roots, in a pattern sometimes called "verbal number suppletion" (Veselinova 2006). Lo-Toga and Hiw, two Oceanic languages of Vanuatu (Torres Islands), thus alternate certain verbs according to their absolutive argument's number — e.g. Hiw tō 'go:Sing' vs. vën 'go:Plural'. The pattern affects 17 verb pairs in Lo-Toga, 33 in Hiw. This rich system is a local innovation in the Torres Islands, not found elsewhere in Oceanic. This structure is here analysed for the first time. Verbal number is not just agreement: its principles and categories differ from nominal number. Despite its similarity with suppletion, the structure really involves separate words, organised into a "lexical paradigm" — a structured set of lexical pairs — contrasting individual vs. collective events. The comparative method helps reconstruct the system's development. A former circumfix encoding pluractionality was the source for the number alternation; yet most verbs encoded the contrast lexically, as near-synonyms were harnessed into the emergent paradigm. Crucially, even after it was recruited into the number paradigm, each verb remained an autonomous lexeme. While nominal number belongs to the morphology, the paradigm of verbal number in the Torres languages pertains entirely to the lexicon.
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Contributor : Alexandre François <>
Submitted on : Saturday, December 28, 2019 - 7:31:26 PM
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Alexandre François. Verbal number in Lo–Toga and Hiw: The emergence of a lexical paradigm. Transactions of the Philological Society, Wiley, 2019, 117 (3), pp.338-371. ⟨10.1111/1467-968X.12168⟩. ⟨hal-02424889⟩



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