Morphology before phonology: A case study of Turoyo (Neo-Aramaic)

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Some models of the morphology-phonology interface take (certain aspects of) morphology and phonology to be computed in the same component of the grammar, simultaneously, including many instantiations of Optimality Theory (McCarthy and Prince 1993a,b, Kager 1996, Hyman and Inkelas 1997, Mascaró 2007, Wolf 2008, i.a.). On the other hand are models that separate morphology from phonology, including Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz 1993, 1994) and related models (e.g., Trommer 2001, Bye and Svenonius 2012, Dawson 2017, Rolle 2020), as well as “subcategorization”-based approaches (Paster 2006, 2009, Yu 2007, i.a.). I undertake a careful study of the order of operations needed to derive the form of finite verbs in the Neo-Aramaic language Turoyo (Jastrow 1993). Two morphophonological phenomena found in Turoyo verbs provide evidence for a separation of morphology from phonology: (i) phonologically-conditioned suppletive allomorphy that is anti-optimizing and surface opaque (reaffirming the findings of Paster 2006); and (ii) phonological displacement of an affix (à la infixation) that is also anti-optimizing and surface opaque, and even more surprisingly, counterbleeds morphological operations in the verbal complex but feeds/bleeds phonological ones. The main conclusion from Turoyo is that exponent choice precedes, and is oblivious to, the regular phonology of the language and considerations of phonological optimization. Turoyo also provides a more general window into a number of issues at the morphology-phonology interface, including cyclicity, the timing of infixation, and constraints on allomorphy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-184
Number of pages50
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics


  • Allomorphy
  • Infixation
  • Morphology
  • Neo-Aramaic
  • Phonology


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