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Alternations of classificatory verb stems in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì: a cognitive semantic account

  • Hussein Al-Bataineh EMAIL logo
From the journal Folia Linguistica


This paper investigates the phenomenon of ‘classificatory verbs’, i.e. a set of motion and positional verbs that show stem alternations depending on the semantic features of one of their arguments in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì (Dogrib), based on field notes and documentary sources of the language. The paper shows that Tłı̨chǫ classificatory verbal categories belong to four semantic subclasses which have inconsistent stem inventories caused by the presence or absence of some semantic features. Stem inventories of locative verb systems vary depending on the scalar [effort] feature, and those of motion verbs correlate with the scalar [agentive] feature. The paper explains why other semantically related verbs do not show stem alternations and proposes contrastive hierarchies to represent variations in stem inventories intra- and cross-linguistically assuming that the selection of a stem for a particular semantic category follows a series of binary choices that characterize the opposition’s active in the language.

Corresponding author: Hussein Al-Bataineh, Department of Linguistics, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL A1B 3S7, Canada, E-mail:


I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for very thoughtful comments and suggestions, which led to substantial improvements in this paper. In various stages of the paper’s development, I also benefited greatly from discussions with Nicholas Welch whose insightful comments and constructive feedback helped me clarify a number of theoretical and empirical issues. All errors remain mine.

Glossing abbreviations


first person


second person


third person






disjoint anaphor


















possessed noun suffix














thematic prefix


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Received: 2020-01-21
Accepted: 2020-04-24
Published Online: 2021-01-08
Published in Print: 2021-04-27

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