In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

THE EVOLUTION OF NOUN INCORPORATION Marianne Mithun State University of New York, Albany Noun incorporation is perhaps the most nearly syntactic of all morphological processes . Examination of the phenomenon across a large number of geographically and genetically diverse languages indicates that, where syntax and morphology diverge, incorporation is a solidly morphological device that derives lexical items, not sentences. It is used for four different but related purposes; these fall into an implicational hierarchy which in turn suggests a path along which incorporation develops historically. Differences in its productivity from language to language show that this development may be arrested at any point—resulting either in the eventual disappearance of the process, or in its resurgence as a productive system of affixation.* A large number of unrelated languages scattered throughout the world share an intriguing morphological construction. In this construction, generally referred to as noun incorporation (NI), a N stem is compounded with a V stem to yield a larger, derived V stem, as in Siberian Koryak qoya- 'reindeer' + -nm- 'to kill' —» qoyanm- 'to reindeer-slaughter'.1 Interestingly, all languages * I am especially grateful to the following people for sharing their expertise on languages with which they work: Victoria Bricker on Yucatec Mayan, LyIe Campbell on Mayan in general, Wallace Chafe on Caddoan, Mary Haas on Wakashan, Jane Hill on Tlaxcala Nuahatl, Dale Kinkade on Upper Chehalis, Thomas Larsen on Mayan, John McLaughlin on Comanche and Proto-Uto-Aztecan , Wick Miller on Shoshone, Andrew Pawley on Austronesian and on lexicalization in general, John Dunn and Bruce Rigsby on Tsimshian, Aryon Rodrigues on Tupinambá and Mundurukú, and Karl Zimmer on Turkish. I have benefited greatly from comments made by Wallace Chafe on an earlier draft of the paper. I also greatly appreciate the skill and patience of these speakers who generously supplied data from their languages, with discussion: Reginald Henry of Six Nations, Ontario, for Cayuga; Josephine Home, of Kahnawà:ke, Quebec, for Mohawk; Annette Jacobs, of Ahkwesáhsne, Quebec, and Kahnawà:ke, for Mohawk; Frank Jacobs Jr., of Kahnawà:ke, for Mohawk; Dorothy Lazore, ofAhkwesáhsne and Kahnawà:ke, for Mohawk; Mary MacDonald, ofAhkwesáhsne, for Mohawk; Stanley Redbird, of Silver Creek (Rosebud), South Dakota, for Lakhota; Martha St. John, of Sisseton, South Dakota, for Santee; Minnie Thompson of Turkey Ford, Oklahoma, for Cayuga; and Lefty Williams of Anadarko, Oklahoma, for Caddo. Especially helpful were the insightful observations shared by Annette Jacobs. The first significant treatments of noun incorporation were Kroeber 1909 and especially Sapir 1911. For other works dealing specifically with the topic, see Axelrod ms, Booker 1981, Haas 1941, Mardirussian 1975, Merlan 1976, Miner 1982, 1983a,b, 1984, Sadock 1980, Sugita 1973, Wolfart 1971, and Woodbury 1975a,b. 1 The few English constructions that most closely resemble NI (e.g. to baby-sit, to mountainclimb , or to word-process), do not actually result from a productive compounding process, but are rather Vs backformed from compound N's. Several facts in addition to their scarcity show this to be true. First, such Vs rarely ifever exist without a related gerund form ( baby-sitting, mountainclimbing , or word-processing). Second, such Vs generally do not occur freely with a full set of normal inflections. They tend to appear primarily with an -ing suffix, a functional extension of the existing gerund form. Thus a sentence like / went mountain-climbing seems more natural than / mountain-climb every Saturday. Finally, one of the few such Vs which does appear with a variety of inflections, to baby-sit, shows none of the classic semantic case relations between the N and V constituents that are standard features of incorporation: one does not 'sit' a 'baby'. The baby is not a typical patient, location, nor instrument. The way in which the baby qualifies the sitting is much more typical of the looser semantic relationships generally found between the constituents of nominal compounds. 847 848LANGUAGE, VOLUME 60, NUMBER 4 (1984) which exhibit such morphological structures also have syntactic paraphrases. If we know that, in Koryak, one can say tiqoyanmátekm ?-reindeer-slaughter', then we can correctly predict the existence ofa sentence like Tinmékín qoyáwge ?-slaughter reindeer.' It would certainly be inefficient for languages to preserve exactly...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 847-894
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.