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Positional dependency in Murrinhpatha: expanding the typology of non-canonical morphotactics

  • Rachel Nordlinger ORCID logo EMAIL logo and John Mansfield ORCID logo
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard


Principles of morphotactics are a major source of morphological diversity amongst the world’s languages, and it is well-known that languages exhibit many different types of deviation from a canonical ideal in which there is a unique and consistent mapping between function and form. In this paper we present data from Murrinhpatha (non-Pama-Nyungan, northern Australia) that demonstrates a type of non-canonical morphotactics so far unattested in the literature, one which we call positional dependency. This type is unusual in that the non-canonical pattern is driven by morphological form rather than by morphosyntactic function. In this case the realisation of one morph is dependent on the position in the verbal template of another morph. Thus, it is the linearisation of morphs that conditions the morphological realisation, not the morphosyntactic feature set. Positional dependency in Murrinhpatha thus expands our typology of content-form interactions and non-canonical morphotactics with implications for our understanding of morphological structure cross-linguistically.

Corresponding author: Rachel Nordlinger, Languages and Linguistics, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, E-mail:

Funding source: Australian Research Council

Award Identifier / Grant number: DE180100872

Award Identifier / Grant number: CE140100041


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Received: 2020-08-25
Accepted: 2020-12-21
Published Online: 2021-03-17

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