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A phonological reanalysis of morphological segment deletion and de-affrication in Ik

Shanti Ulfsbjorninn EMAIL logo
From the journal The Linguistic Review


Ik presents a widespread pattern of allomorphy characterised by morpheme-specific segment-zero alternations (deletions) and de-affrication. Part of the process is clearly phonological because it applies to every item in the language. Final vowels are devoiced into oblivion, though they are always recoverable in Non-Domain-Final context. Case allomorphy shows various item-specific patterns, some affixes overwrite the final-vowels of roots, others do not, and others yet exhibit consonant-zero alternations. Meanwhile, interestingly, there is (ostensibly) morphologically-sensitive consonant deletion that is fully complementary with what is clearly phonological vowel deletion. In fact, an entirely phonological analysis is possible if the consonant-zero alternations are modelled by floating consonants belonging to the exponents of certain morphemes. Therefore, the item/morpheme-specific aspect of the process is actually specific to the exponent of that morpheme. This locates the whole analysis in the phonology and provides a straightforward account of the complementarity of the two deletion processes. The formal analysis is very close to what has been proposed for French, with its floating consonants and its irregular hiatus-driven vowel deletion. The analysis will then be extended to the item-specific idiosyncratic process of de-affrication that is blocked, not by coincidence, precisely in morphologically overwriting environments. In the end, all the phenomena can be accounted for in a modular analysis, provided one gets the representations right.

Corresponding author: Shanti Ulfsbjorninn, University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain, E-mail:


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Published Online: 2021-08-04
Published in Print: 2021-09-27

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