ChapterPDF Available

Hierarchy-Governed Affix Order in Eastern Kiranti



In this paper, I analyse the linear order of inflectional suffixes in the Kiranti language Athpare and argue that their order reflects a language-specific hierarchy of morpho-syntactic feature classes (Siewierska, 2004; Ackerman, 2009). I present an analysis for these facts that is couched in Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky, 1993/2002) and based on ALIGNMENT constraints (McCarthy and Prince, 1993; Trommer, 2003c) as well as a markedness constraint that demands an unambiguous marking of the agent argument. This demand refers to the well-known finding that case-marking and (fixed) order of elements interact in a crucial way (Comrie, 1981; Haspelmath, 2000; Müller, 2002). A comparative look at closely related Eastern Kiranti languages provides evidence for my approach: In some of these languages, slightly different patterns can be observed that directly follow from my assumption that linear order is governed by a general hierarchy of morpho-syntactic features and the demand to mark the agent argument prominently. From a typological point of view, this study of affix ordering is interesting since the Eastern Kiranti languages do not obey the typological tendency found in Trommer (2003a,c) that the ordering between person and number agreement generally follows the hierarchy Person Number.
Prepublished draft, August 2012
Hierarchy-governed Affix Order in Eastern Kiranti
Eva Zimmermann, University of Leipzig
Abstract In this paper, I analyse the linear order of inflectional suffixes in the Kiranti language
Athpare and argue that their order reflects a language-specific hierarchy of morpho-syntactic
feature classes (Siewierska, 2004; Ackerman, 2009). I present an analysis for these facts that
is couched in Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky, 1993/2002) and based on ALIGN-
MENT constraints (McCarthy and Prince, 1993; Trommer, 2003c) as well as a markedness
constraint that demands an unambiguous marking of the agent argument. This demand refers
to the well-known finding that case-marking and (fixed) order of elements interact in a crucial
way (Comrie, 1981; Haspelmath, 2000; Müller, 2002). A comparative look at closely related
Eastern Kiranti languages provides evidence for my approach: In some of these languages,
slightly different patterns can be observed that directly follow from my assumption that linear
order is governed by a general hierarchy of morpho-syntactic features and the demand to mark
the agent argument prominently. From a typological point of view, this study of affix ordering
is interesting since the Eastern Kiranti languages do not obey the typological tendency found in
Trommer (2003a,c) that the ordering between person and number agreement generally follows
the hierarchy Person Number.
Keywords Affix Order, Kiranti, ALIGNMENT-constraints, morpho-syntactic feature hierarchy,
morphological prominence
1 The Phenomenon: hierarchy-governed affix order
It is a well-known phenomenon that agreement markers on a transitive verb can be restricted to
a specific order regardless of whether they realize agreement features of the agent or the patient
(=‘template morphology’, cf. for example Stump (1996) or Stump (2006) for an overview). In
(1), this situation is illustrated with examples from Athpare, a Southeastern Kiranti language.
All Athpare data in the following are taken from the grammar by Ebert (1997b).
(1) Affix Order in Athpare (Ebert, 1997b:182)
a. a-lemsa-ţi-Na-e
‘You beat us two (excl)’ (2s1de)
b. a-lemsa-ţi-Na-e
‘You two beat me’ (2d1s)
c. lemsa-u-N-ţi-e
‘I beat them (two)’ (1s3d)
The agreement and tense suffixes following the stem lemsa ‘to beat (Pst)’ in (1) always occur
in a specific order irrespective of whether they realize features of the agent or the patient.
This is most apparent in the contrast between (1-a) and (1-b). The suffix string is identical
in both forms but the markers differ in whether they mark agreement with the agent or the
patient argument. In (1-a), -ţi (dual) and -Na (1st person) both mark agreement with number
and person of the patient argument whereas in (1-b), -ţi marks the dual number of the agent
argument and -Na first person features of the patient argument. In (1-c) on the other hand, -u
and -ţi mark agreement with the third person dual patient argument and both are separated by
-N indicating first person of the agent argument. These different orders of agent- and patient
agreement markers can be summarized with the abstract labels A(gent) and P(atient) as PP
Glosses: PST = past, D = dual, A = agent-like argument of canonical transitive verb, P = patient-like argument
of canonical transitive verb.
s = singular, p = plural, d = dual, di = dual inclusive, de = dual exclusive, pi = plural inclusive, pe = plural
exclusive, A = agent-like argument of canonical transitive verb, P = patient-like argument of canonical transitive
verb, N = number, Ps = person
(1-a), AP (1-b) and PAP (1-c).
One class of theoretical approaches to affix order simply assigns exponents to specific position
that reflect such a fixed linear order of affixes, illustrated for Athpare in (2).
(2) Suffix Slots in Athpare
Σ -u -m -ţi -Na -e
N -i
Another line of research derives the order of affixes inside Optimality Theory from a number
of morpheme-specific constraints (Paster, 2006; Ryan and Schuh, under preparation; Ryan,
2010). In contrast, I present an optimality-theoretic analysis for the Kiranti facts that is based
on ALIGNMENT constraints (McCarthy and Prince, 1993; Trommer, 2003c) about morpho-
syntactic features, not morphemes (Trommer, 2003a, 2001, 2003c). The first argument for
such an analysis is therefore its economy and the fact that it uses general constraints rather than
morpheme-specific mechanisms.
The second main argument for my optimality-theoretic proposal is the fact that there are clearly
defined exceptions to the expected hierarchy-governed order in some Kiranti languages. These
exceptional reorderings between some morphemes pose severe problems for a templatic ac-
count and can only be derived through additional arbitrary mechanisms like the suspension of
the assumption that rule blocks apply sequentially and the introduction of specific portmanteau
rule blocks (Stump, 2001). I argue for the existence of a markedness constraint demanding that
arguments must be marked prominently. Evidence for such a constraint type can be found in
a cross-language comparison of different Kiranti languages. Different repair strategies can be
found in different languages to ensure a morphologically prominent argument. Such a situa-
tion where a marked structure is repaired through different operations in different contexts is a
straightforward prediction of an optimality-theoretic system as the one I propose here.
I begin with an exemplifying case study of the affix order in Athpare in section 2. First, the in-
flectional affixes and their meaning are introduced in subsection 2.1 before the relevant general-
izations about their order are discussed in subsection 2.2. In section 3, my optimality-theoretic
An example for such an approach is the assumption of word formation rules that are ordered in blocks (An-
derson, 1992).
analysis is presented that is based on the assumption of ALIGNMENT constraints predicting
a hierarchy-governed system of affix order (3.1) and a markedness constraint demanding de-
partures from the expected ordering patterns (3.2). Further predictions and cross-language
evidence for the proposed analysis are discussed in subsection 3.2.3 where I present facts from
the closely related Kiranti language Camling, which differs from Athpare in an interesting way.
In section 4, I briefly discuss alternative OT analyses for affix order, especially the account in
Trommer (2003c), Hyman (2003) and Caballero (2010). I conclude in section 5.
2 Case Study: Affix order in Athpare
2.1 The inflectional suffixes of Athpare
2.1.1 Theoretical background: realizational morphology
I argue that the affix order in Athpare reflects a hierarchy of morpho-syntactic feature cate-
gories. Such a hierarchy demands that affixes realizing a certain feature must precede/follow
another marker realizing another kind of feature. The meaning (i.e. a set of morpho-syntactic
features) of an inflectional marker is therefore crucial in such an account. Since the assignment
of meaning to a morpheme is always the result of abstract analysis, I briefly present the princi-
ples that underlie my analysis of agreement affixes in Kiranti. The overall background to which
many of the following assumptions refer is a realizational approach to morphology where ab-
stract morpho-syntactic feature bundles the syntax provides are realized by the insertion of
markers (Distributed Morphology (=DM); Halle and Marantz, 1993).
For all Kiranti languages that are discussed in the following, the segmentation into morphemes
as well as their meaning is roughly equivalent to the morpheme lists in the descriptive gram-
mars. Nevertheless, some formal criteria must justify the segmentation and especially the as-
signment of morpho-syntactic features to morphemes as well. The three criteria in (3) describe
a morpheme segmentation that is plausible from the viewpoint of learnability and economy at
the same time (Bierwisch, 2006; Pertsova, 2007; Bank, 2010; Trommer, 2011). The principle
(3-c) is what Müller (2006c,b) calls the ‘Syncretism Principle’ stating that identity of form
implies identity of function, unless there is good evidence for the contrary.
(3) Preferences for the segmentation into morphemes and the assignment of meaning
a. Only those segment strings that occur as free forms (for suffixes: occur after the
stem on their own) are possible morphemes.
b. A morpheme is assigned to a feature specification that is necessary and sufficient
to describe all its occurrences in the paradigm.
c. Homophonous morphemes are avoided.
These criteria are obviously not inviolable principles but preferences governing a learning al-
gorithm that results in an economic lexicon. Such a lexicon avoids redundant information but is
learnable at the same time. Related to the demand to be non-redundant is the avoidance of cooc-
curring markers expressing one and the same feature. In a realizational framework like DM,
this follows from the notion of feature discharge stating that whenever a marker is inserted, the
features it realizes are unavailable for further insertion of another marker specified for the same
feature (McGinnis, 1996; Müller, 2006a; Noyer, 1992). A final important notion that needs to
be introduced before we can turn to the concrete morpheme specifications of Athpare, is the
distinction into substantial and context features. The former are necessary for the insertion of a
marker and cannot be expressed twice (=they are discharged) and the latter are necessary for the
presence of a marker but stay available for insertion of another marker (Carstairs-McCarthy,
1987; Noyer, 1992; Halle and Marantz, 1993). Context features are notated as ‘__[X]’ in the
following. This distinction into substantial and context features is briefly illustrated with the
abstract example in (4). The markers -A and -B surface in quite similar contexts and it seems at
first glance reasonable to specify -A as a specific [+α,+β] marker and -B as more general [+β]
marker. However, given the assumption of feature discharge, it is predicted that both markers
can never coocurr since they are specified for the same substantial feature [+β]. Specifying -A
for the substantial feature [+α] and for the context feature [+β], is more in line with the princi-
ples I discussed above. From this specification it follows that -A can only be inserted if [+β] is
present but the feature is not discharged and remains visible for further insertion.
(4) Abstract example
+ -A-B -B
-C -C
-A [+α/ __ [+β]
-B [+β]
-C [–β]
2.1.2 Morphological analysis for inflectional suffixes in Athpare
In (5), a segmented paradigm for transitive and intransitive agreement suffixes in Athpare is
given. In the following, I concentrate only on the agreement suffixes of the Kiranti languages
and ignore agreement prefixes for reasons of convenience. Only few prefixes can be found in
the verbal paradigms of Kiranti and their analysis adds nothing new to an investigation of affix
order. In addition, I only list underlying abstract forms for all morphemes and abstract away
from any phonological processes obscuring the surface forms.
(5) Suffix paradigm for Athpare, 1/2 object (Past)
1s 1de 1pe 1di 1pi 2s 2d 2p
1s -na-e -na-ţi-e -na-ni-e
1de -na-e -na-ţi-e -na-ni-e
1pe -na-e -na-ţi-e -na-ni-e
2s -Na-e -ţi-Na-e -i-Na-e
2d -ţi-Na-e -ţi-Na-e -i-Na-e
2p -i-Na-e -ţi-Na-e -i-Na-e
3s -Na-e -ţi-Na-e -i-Na-e -ţi-e -e -e -ţi-e -i-e
3d -ţi-Na-e -ţi-Na-e -i-Na-e -ţi-e -ţi-e -e -ţi-e -i-e
3p -Na-e -ţi-Na-e -i-Na-e -ţi-e -e -e -ţi-e -i-e
intr -Na-e -ţi-Na-e -i-Na-e -ţi-e -i-e -e -ţi-e -i-e
In Athpare, the relevant phonological rules that result in predictable surface alternation of morphemes are
nasal place assimilation and hiatus-avoiding vowel deletion. Apart rom these more or less standard phonological
rules, there is an interesting morpheme-specific copying process in Athpare: an affix-nasal preceding -ţi is copied
after these morphemes resulting in e.g. [umţimma] from the underlying affix string -u-m-ţi-Na. This copying
is actually a common process in Kiranti in general, cf. Zimmermann (2012). For all languages, the surface
paradigms can be found in the Appendix.
(6) Suffix paradigm for Athpare, 3 object (Past)
3s 3d 3p
1s -u-N-e -u-N-ţi-e
1de -ţi-u-Na-e -ţi-u-Na-e
1pe -u-m-Na-e -u-m-ţi-Na-e
1di -ţi-u-e -ţi-u-e
1pi -u-m-e -u-m-ţi-e
2s -u-e -u-ţi-e
2d -ţi-u-e -ţi-u-e
2p -u-m-e -u-m-ţi-e
3s -u-e -u-ţi-e
3d -ţi-u-e -ţi-u-e
3p -u-e -u-ţi-e
intr -e -ţi-e -e
The ‘meaning’ for an inflectional suffix is taken to be a set of morpho-syntactic features, de-
scribed with binary features. (7) lists the morpho-syntactic categories and their decomposition
into binary features that are relevant for the analysis of Athpare. Kiranti languages distinguish
the three numbers ‘singular’, ‘dual’ and ‘plural’ and have a contrast between a first person non-
singular exclusive and a first person non-singular inclusive. In addition to the binary features in
(7), I assume the two privative features ‘A’ and ‘P’ abbreviating the thematic roles of transitive
agent and transitive patient arguments. I refer to those as ‘case’ features in the following. With
using these abstract labels and avoiding e.g. ‘accusative/nominative’ or ‘ergative/absolutive’, I
remain agnostic about the thematic alignment in Kiranti.
(7) Agreement categories and their decomposition in Kiranti
category binary features
1 2 3 sg pl
1s + +
1de + (dual exclusive)
1di + + (dual inclusive)
1pe + + (plural exclusive)
1pi + + + (plural inclusive)
2s + +
2d +
2p + +
3s + +
3d +
3p + +
The assignment of morpho-syntactic feature sets to the Athpare suffixes is given in (8). They
are listed in the order in which they appear in longer suffix combinations, reflecting the affix
slots in (2). This order is most apparent in one of the few four suffix combinations -u-m-ţi-e
(e.g. 1pe3Ns). I briefly go through these marker specifications below.
(8) Morphemes in Athpare
a. -u [P,–1,–2,+3] P
b. -N [A,+sg,–pl,+1,–2,–3] / __ [+3]
Ac. -m [A,–sg,+pl,–3] / __ [+3]
d. -na [A,+1,–2] / __ [+2]
e. -i [–sg,+pl,–3]
Nf. -ni [–sg,+pl,+2] / __ [A,+1]
g. -ţi [–sg]
h. -Na [+1,–2] Ps
i. -e [+past] Pst
The assignment of a morpho-syntactic feature set that is a necessary and sufficient condition (cf.
(3)-b) describing all occurrences of a marker in the segmented paradigm (7) is trivially possible
for -e. The suffix occurs in the whole paradigm but is absent in the non-past paradigms. It is
therefore arguably the past tense marker.
Such an assignment of an unambiguous meaning is
possible as well for -u, -na, -N
, and -m. The suffix -u always marks a third person patient and
most importantly it occurs in all contexts with a third person patient. Its feature specification
(8-a) therefore includes not only the case feature P but all (binary) features explicitly specifying
a third person. The morphemes -m and -N occurs only in third person patient contexts as well.
But their distribution is more restricted since they are also bound to contexts of first person
singular agents for -N and to contexts of first and second person plural agents for -m. Their
resulting feature specifications (8-b+c) mirrors that. Finally, the suffix -na only occurs in the
context of a first person agent acting upon a second person patient (12). It is therefore taken
Athpare distinguishes only between past and non-past tense as is common in Kiranti.
That -N and -Na are different morphemes is obscured at the surface in the past paradigm: -Na + -e are realized
as [Ne] which is perfectly predictable given the general phonology of the language. In the non-past paradigm
where the final -e is absent, however, it is clear that there are two suffixes -N and -Na.
as an agent marker realizing first person in the context of a second person patient
(8-d) a
feature specification that is once again necessary and sufficient for describing all occurrences
of the marker.
The suffix -Na generally marks agreement with a first person argument. But in contrast to the
marker specifications of -e, -u, -m and -na, the morpho-syntactic context of first person is not
sufficient for the occurrence of -Na since it does not surface in 12 and 1s3 although its
feature specification is met. This simply follows from the assumption of feature discharge and
the avoidance of multiple marking for features. The suffixes -na and -Na realize first person
agent case features and are consequently more specific than -Na only realizing first person
After -na and -N are inserted, subsequent insertion of -Na is impossible since the
features [+1,–2] are already realized and discharged.
A similar blocking relation holds between -i and -m. The suffix -i can only be found when
one argument is second person plural or first person exclusive plural. The feature set that is
common to all these occurrences is [–sg,+pl,–3]. This is a subset of the feature specification
of -m [A,–sg,+pl,–3] / __[+3] that is consequently more specific than -i. As soon as -m
is inserted, the feature [–sg,+pl,–3] are discharged that are necessary for the insertion of -i
the marker is blocked by a more specific marker.
A third number marker in Athpare is -
ţi that generally marks dual number for agents and first and second person patients. In the
contexts of a third person patient, -ţi is not only restricted to dual contexts but generally marks
third person non-singular patient arguments. This distribution of -ţi can be observed in many
Central-Eastern Kiranti languages
and opens up two alternative analyses. One can take -ţi as
One could actually specify it the other way around, i.e. as a second person patient marker in a first person
agent context. But it is in any case a marker that must be specified for case, i.e. for A or P and nothing hinges on
the choice for one or the other specification in the following discussion of affix order.
For the concept of specificity deciding the competition of markers about insertion in DM cf. e.g. Halle and
Marantz (1993, 1994); Halle (1997); Noyer (1998) or Harley and Noyer (1999).
Given the feature specification [–sg,+pl,+3], the marker -i is actually expected in more contexts: in 1piP
contexts and in the context of 2p1de. The standard account in DM for such an absence of an otherwise expected
marker is the concept of impoverishment rules that manipulate the morpho-syntactic context prior to insertion of
morphological markers (Halle and Marantz, 1993; Halle, 1997; Noyer, 1998; Frampton, 2003; Müller, 2006a). In
Athpare, an impoverishment rule deletes the number feature of the second person agent in the context of [+1,–
sg,–pl] and the number features for every 1pi patient argument. An alternative is the assumption of more specific
homophonous markers (-i
[+pl,+2] /__ [+sg,+1], -i
[P,+pl,+1,–2], and -i
[P,+pl,+2]). However, for the
present discussion of affix order, the choice between one or the other analysis is irrelevant.
At least for Athpare (Ebert, 1997b), Bantawa (Doornenbal, 2009), Belhare (Bickel, 2003, 1998), Camling
(Ebert, 1997a), Chintang (Bickel, Banjade, Gaenszle, Lieven, Paudyal, Rai, Rai, Rai and Stoll, 2007), Limbu (van
Driem, 1987), Lohorung (van Driem, 1992), Mewahang (Gaenszle, 1995), Puma (Bickel, Gaenszle, Rai, Rai, Rai,
a general [–sg] marker throughout the whole language (‘1ţi-Analysis’ in (9)). An alternative is
the assumption of two homophonous markers -ţi: the first -ţi is a dual marker and the second
one is a non-singular marker restricted to the context of third person patients (‘2ţis-Analysis’).
(9) Two alternative analyses for -ţi
‘1ţi-Analysis’ ‘2ţis-Analysis’
-ţi [–sg] -ţi [–sg,–pl]
-ţi [–sg] / [__+3]
Under the ‘1ţiAnalysis’, the marker is expected in all non-singular contexts and several non-
appearances of the marker especially in first and second person plural contexts remain mys-
terious. The ‘2ţis-Analysis’ analysis avoids some of these mispredictions through restricting
one -ţi to dual contexts and the other one to non-singular third person patient arguments.
However, it introduces homophonous lexical entries with identical forms but different mean-
ings. As was already discussed in section 2.1.1, this is a dispreferred option according to the
the Syncretism Principle (Müller, 2006c,b).
Actually, the choice between the two analyses is irrelevant for the discussion of affix order
since the hierarchy-governed order approach predicts the very same ordering properties for
one or two -ţis as long as both realize number features. As became clear in (8), I adopt the
‘1ţi-Analysis’ of one general [–sg] -ţi, which is in accordance with the Syncretism Principle
(Müller, 2006c,b). In fact, we come back to this discussion of one or two -ţis in section 2.2
where another argument for the analysis of a single -ţi is discussed: In some contexts, two
ocurrences of -ţi are expected (=one for each argument) but only one surfaces throughout.
This blocking phenomenon receives a more straightforward account in an analysis with one
Rai and Sharma, 2007), and Yakkha (Schackow, 2010).
Some non-appearances of -ţi remain unexplained even under the ‘2ţis-Analysis’. This is the case in the
context of dual agents acting upon 1pe or 2p. Cf. footnote 9 for a discussion of possible solutions for such
neutralizations inside DM.
2.2 Order of suffixes in Athpare
With the exception of -ţi and -e, all Athpare suffixes in (8) are specified for more than one
morpho-syntactic feature category. For example, -i [–sg,+pl,–3] is specified for number and
person features. However, one can still establish a clear connection between the features a
marker realizes and its position in a sequence of markers: every suffix that precedes another
suffix realizes an additional type of morpho-syntactic feature, marked in boldface in (8). This
generalization about feature specification and precedence allows the establishment of a sim-
ple hierarchy of morpho-syntactic features that governs the order of affixes. This hierarchy
given in (10) does not only hold in Athpare but is very similar for many other Eastern Kiranti
(10) Feature hierarchy for the affix order in Athpare
P A N Ps
This hierarchy simply says that a marker realizing Patient features always precedes a marker
realizing Agent features, and the latter always precedes a marker realizing number features and
so on. If a marker is specified for more than one feature type, it is always the feature higher
on the hierarchy that determines the order of the two morphemes. For example, -u and -Na are
both specified for Ps but the former always precedes the latter since -u realizes the case feature
P as well and P is higher on the hierarchy than Ps. Some examples for the order in longer affix
strings are given in (11). The form in (11-a) illustrates that affixes specified for number (-i
[–sg,+pl,–3]) precede affixes specified only for person (-Na [+1,–2]). In (11-b) we see that
the suffix -u specified for person and the case features P precedes the suffix -m specified for
number, person and the case feature A. And both are followed by -ţi realizing only number
(11) a. lemsa-ţi-Na-e
‘He beats us (excl)’ (3s1pe)
Some more examples from Eastern Kiranti are discussed below. For a classification of the Kiranti languages
cf. e.g. Michailovsky (1994); van Driem (2001); Opgenort (2005); Bickel (2008).
b. lemsa-u-m-ţi-e
‘We (incl) two beat them’ (1di3p)
The tense marker -e is final in both these suffix strings and throughout the whole paradigm
the category Pst must be ordered after person on the hierarchy. However, the hierarchy in
(11) excludes the category tense. The position of tense markers is relatively unstable in the
Kiranti languages, which is in sharp contrast to all other inflectional categories. For example,
in Limbu, another Kiranti language that is discussed in later sections, the past marker -ε always
occurs directly after the stem and before all other agreement suffixes. In my OT account,
such differences easily fall out with simply reranking of the ALIGNMENT constraints for tense
categories. However, I restrict myself to the agreement features in the following and remain
agnostic about the question whether tense categories are integrated in the hierarchy of morpho-
syntactic features.
A close look at the paradigm in (6) actually reveals that the hierarchy in (10) is able to predict
most affix ordering relations correctly (74 paradigm cells out of 86) but fails to capture the
facts in 12 contexts, namely in the contexts of a dual agent acting upon a third person patient
argument. As can be seen in the paradigm extract in (12), the number marker -ţi precedes -u
in those contexts. This is unexpected since -u is a case marker specified for P and -ţi is only
specified for number.
(12) Third person patients in Athpare
3s 3d/p
1s -u-N -u-N-ţi
1de -ţi-u-Na -ţi-u-Na
1pe -u-m-Na -u-m-ţi-Na
1di -ţi-u -ţi-u
1pi -u-m -u-m-ţi
2s -u -u-ţi
2d -ţi-u -ţi-u
2p -u-m -u-m-ţi
3s -u -u-ţi
3d -ţi-u -ţi-u
3p -u -u-ţi
In Trommer (2003c) and Trommer (2001), only the order of agreement markers follows from ALIGNMENT
constraints. Tense as a lexical head is already present in the syntax and has another status.
This departure from a hierarchy-governed affix order is actually quite common in Kiranti lan-
guages and can be found in, for example, Limbu as well, another language of Eastern Nepal
that is described in van Driem (1987).
A portion of the transitive non-past paradigm of Limbu
is given in (13). The inflectional markers differ slightly in shape and distribution from the suf-
fixes in Athpare.
For example, a suffix -ge generally marks the first person and two instances
of -ţi surface in third person non-singular patients, one marking number of the agent, the other
number features of the patient. The general order of affixes in Limbu, however, follows the
same hierarchy P A N Ps and the order -si-u in 1/2d–3 contexts is again unexpected.
(13) Limbu (non-past) (van Driem, 1987:368-374)
3s 3d/p
1s -u-N -u-N-si
1de -si-u-ge -si-u-si-ge
1pe -u-m-ge -u-m-si-ge
1di -si-u -si-u-si
1pi -u-m -u-m-si
2s /3s -u -u-si
2d /3d -si-u -si-u-si
-u [P,+3]
-N [A,+1,–2,+sg]
-m [A,–3,+pl] / __ [+3]
-si [–sg]
-ge [+1,–2,–sg]
As I already mentioned, these well-defined exceptions to a hierarchy-governed order are an
important argument for the optimality-theoretic approach I argue for in section 3. What is the
crucial generalization about these two different positions of -ţi? Let’s compare the two suffix
strings -u-ţi (e.g. 33d/p) and -ţi-u (e.g. 3d3s) in Athpare the affixes are the same
in both cases but their order is reversed. The systematic difference between the to orderings
consists in the fact that -ţi marks the number of the patient in the former but the number of
the agent in the latter case. The two positions of -ţi are therefore crucially bound to whether
number features of the patient or the agent argument are marked. As became clear in the very
first example in (1), it is impossible to generally predict the affix order between two affixes
in Kiranti simply from taking into account the question whether they realize agent or patient
features. This became apparent in the different orders, PP, AP and PAP, we observed in the data
in (1) (recall especially the order -ţi-Na that is identical for both contexts although -Na realizes
Other languages exhibiting this reordering of -ţi (and its cognates) are e.g. Bantawa (Doornenbal, 2009),
Belhare (Bickel, 2003, 1998), and Yakkha (Schackow, 2010).
Abstract and surface paradigms for all the exemplifying languages are given in the Appendix. Cf. B.3 for
agent features in one and patient features in the other context). The possible assumption that all
markers realizing features of the patient head are inserted first and the other argument’s features
are realized afterwards, can therefore only predict the -u -ţi minimal pair but is doomed to
fail in the rest of the paradigm.
However, if the feature specification of the markers is decisive in determining their order,
shouldn’t we then simply assume two different instances of -ţi with different marker spec-
ifications that predict different positions in the suffix string? This alternative assumption of
two homophonous morphemes -ţi was already discussed in section 2.1.2. One -ţi could be
specified for dual, the other for the non-singularity of a third person patient argument, and both
appear in different positions. The dual -ţi before the patient case marker -u and the third person
non-singular patient -ţi after all agent case markers, specifically after -u, -m, -na and -N. There
are three problems with such an analysis. The first one, as already discussed, is simply the dis-
preference for homophonous marker entries, especially if the two homophonous markers have
such a strikingly similar feature specifications. The second problem is theory-internal such
a solution is impossible given the assumptions I took for granted in my hierarchy-governed
analysis. If it is truly the feature specification of a morpheme that demands its position inside
the string. It is impossible to find a general hierarchy of feature categories which makes the
following predictions:
1. the first -ţi realizing number is ordered before -u realizing person and P,
2. -u (Ps,P) is ordered before -m, -N and -na that realize A and person (and number), and
3. the second -ţi realizing number is ordered after all these markers.
There is an obvious ranking paradox in this list: N P N. And a third problematic point
concerns the marker distribution in d–3Ns forms. Whether we assume one general morpheme
-ţi or two homophonous markers in different positions, we expect two occurrences of -ţi, one
for the dual agent and one for the non-singular patient. But in fact, only one -ţi surfaces. If
one morpheme specified for [–sg] is assumed, the absence of the second number marker is
due to haplology and avoidance of multiple occurrence of the same morpheme in the same
suffix string (Menn and McWhinney, 1984; Yip, 1998; Plag, 1998; de Lacy, 1999; Nevins, to
appear). Since both instances of -ţi are not expected to occur phonologically adjacent, the
alternative analysis with two markers is not as straightforward. If it is only their phonological
representation that is accidentally homophonous, phonological adjacency seems necessary to
exclude multiple insertion. The complementary distribution of agent and patient -ţi would
therefore remain a coincidence in the alternative assuming two homophonous markers.
The analysis I present in section 3 therefore assumes that it is indeed one single number marker
-ţi that is generally predicted to appear after -u according to the morpho-syntactic feature
hierarchy (10) but can exceptionally be ordered before it if this is the only possibility to mark
the agent prominently.
3 Analysis of affix order in OT
3.1 Hierarchy effects through ALIGNMENT constraints
I assume a realizational morphological system where insertion of morphemes and their order is
evaluated in a parallel fashion. This is the model of ‘Distributed Optimality’ (Trommer, 2003a)
where the optimal morpheme sequence is evaluated for a given set of morpho-syntactic features
through the ranking of violable constraints. The constraints determining affix order are ALIGN-
MENT constraints (McCarthy and Prince, 1993) that demand that a certain edge (left or right)
of a phonological or morphological category must be aligned with a certain edge of another
category. This concept of ranked ALIGNMENT constraints has been proposed in the domain
of affix order by various researchers where it actually implements subcategorization frames for
morphemes (Caballero, 2010; Kim, 2010). A more generalized version that avoids reference
to specific morphemes assumes ALIGNMENT constraints for morphological categories rather
than for morphemes (Hargus and Tuttle, 1997; Trommer, 2003a, 2001, 2003c). The abstract
form of these constraints is given in (14).
(14) Alignment Constraints for Morpheme Ordering
Assign a violation mark for every morpheme that intervenes between a
marker realizing a morphological feature of class X and the right edge
of the stem.
Since we are dealing with suffixes in Kiranti, all ALIGNMENT constraints in the following refer
only to the right edge of the stem.
The notion ‘feature class’ in (14) refers to morpho-syntactic
categories of agreement features: ‘person’ and ‘number’ or the two case features I introduced
above (A and P). In section 2 where the Athpare suffixes and their meaning were discussed
in some detail, I concluded that the hierarchy in (10), repeated in (15), governs the order of
affixes. A morpheme that is specified for a morpho-syntactic feature that is ranked higher on
the hierarchy in (15) precedes all morphemes that only realize lower-ranked features.
(15) Feature hierarchy for the affix order in Athpare
P A N Ps
This hierarchy is straightforwardly implemented in an OT system with ALIGNMENT constraints
through the constraint ranking in (16).
(16) Constraints predicting the affix order in Athpare (preliminary)
\P \A \N \PS
The effect of the constraint ranking is illustrated in (17). The tableau optimizes the suffix string
in the context 1de3s that surfaces as -u-m-ţi. The optimality-theoretic tableau takes the
feature specification for both heads as its input and evaluates full strings of suffixes calculating
the optimal ordering between these suffixes. Below every morpheme, the feature categories it
realizes are given. This abbreviates their full feature specification (cf. the list in (8)) to the
informations that are relevant for the ALIGNMENT constraints. The subscribed indices indicate
whether the marker is inserted to realize features of the agent or patient head.
In Trommer (2003a,b) the constraint type is actually proposed to capture the typological generalization that
person affixes have a strong tendency to precede number affixes (for a discussion of such typological tendencies cf.
also Siewierska (2004)). This is captured through assuming left-ALIGNMENT for person and right-ALIGNMENT
for number. Kiranti languages are a clear counterexample to this typological claim since number markers system-
atically precede genuine person markers that always occur in final position (only followed by a potential tense
suffix). Cf. section 4
(17) Athpare affix order
\P \A \N \PS
*! ** *
+ b.
* *,** *
**! **,* **
The tableau nicely illustrates that it is impossible to fulfill all ALIGNMENT constraints if more
than one suffix is attached to the stem. This is the case since only one morpheme can be
perfectly aligned with the right edge of the stem. For the moment, it is taken for granted that
non-insertion of an expected affix is no possible repair to avoid violations of ALIGNMENT
constraints. This means that all suffixes which are the most specific affixes whose feature
specification is met by the input are inserted. Therefore, multiple violations for the constraints
are encountered by all the candidates in (17).
The highest-ranked and therefore most important constraint is \P demanding that a case
marker for the patient must directly follow the stem. Since only one affix specified for P is
inserted (-u), perfect satisfaction of this ALIGNMENT constraint is possible and the winning
candidate must order -u before all other suffixes. This can be seen in the contrast between
candidates (17-a) and (17-b+c) where the former orders -u after -m. The second constraint de-
mands that a marker specified for A must be aligned with the stem. Again, only one marker is
specified for this case feature, namely -m. At least one violation for \A must be tolerated since
it is more important that the patient case marker -u is adjacent to the stem. But no other marker
should intervene between -u and -m (as in candidate (17-c)) since this causes an additional
violation of \A. The constraint \N now demands adjacency to the stem for more than one
marker in this context, namely for -m and -ţi which are both specified for number (violations
for different markers are separated by a comma). Because the case-marker -m is also forced
to be aligned with the stem from higher-ranked \A, the candidate (17-b) with -m before -ţi
has a better constraint profile than (17-c) with the reversed order. This is a good example for
the generalization that was drawn earlier: only the highest-ranked feature category, for which a
marker is specified for, is decisive in a hierarchy-governed affix order system.
3.2 Morphological prominence for agent arguments
3.2.1 Morphological prominence in OT
In this subsection, the departures from the hierarchy-governed affix order in Athpare (discussed
in subsection 2.2) are further investigated. I propose a new constraint type that accounts for
these reorderings: a markedness constraint that demands the agent argument to be marked
prominently. A close look at the cases of unexpected orderings and suffix distributions in Ki-
ranti reveals that the exceptions of the hierarchy-governed order are not morpheme-specific
and arbitrary but can be summarized under the concept of ‘morphological prominence’. This
concept unites the two independently motivated concepts of prominence by position and promi-
nence through case marking. The unexpected reorderings in Athpare are always bound to the
first position in the affix string – an arguably perceptually prominent position. It is not only the
first position in the affix string (cf. the concept of prominence by position, Steriade; Beckman;
Zoll; Nelson 1995; 1998; 1998; 2003) but also a position adjacent to the stem (McCarthy and
Prince, 1995; Urbanczyk, 2001; Alderete, 2001). All affixes in this position are therefore taken
to be morphologically prominent. This concept of morphological prominence through position
in an affix string extends to argument heads quite easily: Whenever features of an argument are
realized by an affix that is realized in a prominent position, the head is marked morphologically
A second important factor for morphological prominence of arguments is the presence or ab-
sence of case-markers. If agreement affixes specified for the case features of an argument are
inserted, the argument is marked prominently as well. This ‘prominence through case’ refers to
e.g. the ‘discourse prominence’ of a case bearing argument (de Hoop and Malchukov, 2008).
In summary, morphological prominence for arguments is defined as in (18), unifiying the two
concepts of morphological prominence by position (17) and the concept of prominence through
case marking.
(18) Argument prominence through affixation
An argument α is marked prominently if
a. An affix is present that is specified for the case feature A or P and realizes features
of α, or
b. An affix realizing morpho-syntactic features of α is in a prominent position adja-
cent to the stem.
The preference for the agent argument to be marked prominently is ensured by the constraint
in (19).
Assign a violation mark for every verbal affix string where the agent is not marked
This preference for marking agent agreement through either a case marker or an agreement af-
fix in a prominent position is reminiscent of the typological correlation between word order and
case marking (Comrie, 1981; Haspelmath, 2000; Müller, 2002). It has been argued that when-
ever a language has free word order, it also has morphological case. The functional motivation
for this correlation is the fact that there is a preference for unambiguous identification of the
arguments of a grammatical function. (19) demands an unambiguous marking for agent argu-
ments on the level of affixation: the agent argument must be marked through an affix specified
for case or through an affix in a specific prominent position.
3.2.2 Reordering in Athpare
In the examples from Athpare and Limbu, a departure from the expected hierarchy-governed
order was observed whenever a dual agent acts upon a third person patient. The expected order
-u-ţi that follows from the hierarchy P N is obscured and -ţi-u surfaces. The important
generalization discussed in 2.2 was that the number marker unexpectedly occurs next to the
stem and before -u when it marks the number of an agent in the absence of an agent case-
marker. I argue now that -ţi is forced to appear in the morphologically prominent position
directly after the stem since no agent-case marker ensures agent prominence that is demanded
by the high-ranked constraint PROMAGENT! The following tableaux illustrate the point with
examples from Athpare. In (20), the affix combination for the context 1pi3s is evaluated.
Given the feature specification of the input, the inflectional affixes -u and -m are inserted, the
former realizing features of the patient and the latter features of the agent. Since -m is marked
for case, the agent is marked prominently in this affix string and PROMAGENT! is satisfied.
The default ordering -u-m that is expected from the ranking ALIGNMENT constraints surfaces
in this context.
(20) Prominent agent through case marker
PAG! \ P \A \N \PS
+ a.
* * *
*! *
The tableau (21) now derives a situation where a departure from the hierarchy-governed order
is predicted. In the context 2d3sg, the suffixes -u and -ţi are expected to occur and no inflec-
tional affix that is specified for A is available for insertion. The highest-ranked PROMAGENT!
nevertheless demands that the agent is marked prominently and the only chance to satisfy the
constraints is to order a suffix that realizes agent features in the prominent position right after
the stem. The non-singular marker -ţi is the only affix that is coindexed with the agent head
in this context. Realizing this only agent suffix in the position after the case marker -u as is
expected from the hierarchy ensured by ALIGNMENT constraints is therefore impossible (can-
didate (21-a)). Rather, the candidate (21-b) with the prominently marked agent is the optimal
(21) Athpare affix order: -tsi-u
PAG! \ P \A \N \PS
*! *
+ b.
* *
However, although PROMAGENT! is the highest-ranked constraint in Athpare, there is a situ-
ation in which a violation of PROMAGENT! is tolerated for the optimal candidate. This is the
case if simply no marker realizing agent features is available. There are only agent case mark-
ers specified for first person (-m, -N, or -na) in Athpare and no agreement suffixes specified for
singular or third person plural. Consequently, there are some contexts where no inflectional
suffix that realizes agent features can be inserted. The table in (22) gives some examples of
verbal forms with an unprominent agent, marked in boldface.
(22) Unprominent agent in Athpare
3s 3d/p
2s -u -u-ţi
2d -ţi-u -ţi-u
2p -u-m -u-m-ţi
3s -u -u-ţi
3d -ţi-u -ţi-u
3p -u -u-ţi
In the illustrating tableau (23), this situation of an unprominent agent is derived. In the ex-
emplifying context 2s3d, no marker for the second person singular head is available and
PROMAGENT! is violated by all candidates. Now, the lower-ranked ALIGNMENT constraints
determine a hierarchy-governed order and since \P is higher-ranked than \N, the dual marker
-ţi must follow the patient case marker -u.
(23) Athpare affix order: -u-ţi
PAG! \ P \A \N \PS
+ a.
* *
* *! *
The ranking of constraints that was illustrated in the two tableaux in (21) and (23) now derives
the order of all agreement suffixes in Athpare (cf. the paradigm in (6)). General ALIGNMENT
constraints derive a hierarchy-governed order that crucially hinges on the features the markers
realize. And in some contexts, the demand to mark the agent head prominently results in a
situation where a number marker for a dual agent occurs in a prominent position right after the
3.2.3 A prediction: Non-realization of a marker
In this subsection, I discuss some further predictions about attested patterns in the languages
of the world that follow from the introduction of PROMAGENT! into the inventory of OT
It is taken for granted in ‘Distributed Optimality’ (=DO, Trommer 2003a) that GEN only gen-
erates candidates with morphemes whose features are part of the input. For example in the
tableau (23), a candidate like -u-m-ţi ([P,Ps]
) is impossible since the marker
-m realizes features that are not present in the input (+pl). The fact that morphemes are inserted
in the first place and realize as much input features as possible, follows in DO from PARSE
constraints (24) demanding that a feature in the input must be realized through insertion of a
morpheme that is specified for this feature in the output.
(24) PARSE FS (Trommer, 2003a:106)
Assign a violation mark for each feature structure FS’ in the input that is subsumed by
FS and not realized by a feature structure in the output that parses FS in FS’.
A prediction of OT is that all possible rankings of constraints should result in an existing gram-
mar of a language. Given the existence of the constraint (24), it is consequently predicted that
not only reordering (violations of ALIGNMENT) but also the absence of expected suffixes (vi-
olations of PARSE) is a possible repair to avoid violations of PROMAGENT! This prediction
is borne out in Kiranti. There are languages where all markers that are expected to intervene
between the number marker -ţi and the stem are absent in the contexts where reordering is
observed in Athpare. An example is Camling that is very similar to Athpare with respect to
its marker inventory. Some relevant markers and their specifications are given in (25) together
with the suffix forms for the third person patient contexts. The order of suffixes in Camling
follows the same hierarchy as the suffixes in Athpare and Limbu, namely P A N Ps.
(25) Avoidance of a non-prominent agent in Camling (Past) (Ebert, 1997a:70-75)
-u [P,–1,–2,+3]
-m [A,–sg,+pl,–3] / __ [+3]
-ţi [–sg]
-ka [–sg,+1,–2]
Expected given the
3s marker specifications
1de -ţi-ka *-u-ţi-ka
1pe -u-m-ka
1di -ţi *-u-ţi
1pi -u-m
2d -ţi *-u-ţi
2p -u-m
If the ordering of suffixes in Camling were due to the same constraint-ranking as in Athpare, i.e.
if PROMAGENT! dominated all ALIGNMENT constraints, we would expect the same reordering
between -u and -ţi in d3 contexts. But as can be seen in (25), Camling shows a different
pattern in all these contexts where no agent case marker and no marker realizing agent features
is expected to appear adjacent to the stem: The suffix -u is consequently absent.
I argue that Camling -u has the same feature specification [P,+3] as in Athpare and that its ab-
sence in certain contexts follows from my assumptions about the demand to mark agents promi-
nently in Kiranti. More concretely, the blocking of the expected -u is simply another strategy to
satisfy high-ranked PROMAGENT! The hierarchy of ALIGNMENT constraints predicts that the
patient marker -u occurs closer to the stem than -ţi an ordering that would result in a situation
where the agent head is not marked prominently. If the -u is simply absent, the number marker
-ţi is in a prominent position without contradicting the expectations of a hierarchy-governed
order. This repair strategy violates PARSE since morpho-syntactic features from the input re-
main unrealized. But exactly such blocking is predicted in DO where realization and order of
morphemes is calculated at the same time. In Camling, the constraint demanding the realiza-
tion of all patient case features (PARSE-P) is ranked below \P and therefore the suffix -u is
rather not inserted than realized in a position that is not adjacent to the stem.
Camling is therefore very similar to Athpare: it strives to mark the agent prominently. It dif-
fers from Athpare since the constraints ensuring the hierarchy-governed affix order are higher-
ranked than PROMAGENT! and reordering is impossible to achieve agent prominence. The
derivation for this state of affairs in Camling is illustrated in the tableaux in (26). In the first
competition (26-I) for the context 2s3d, the dual suffix -ţi realizes patient features and ap-
pears after -u as is predicted by the hierarchy of ALIGNMENT constraints. High-ranked PRO-
MAGENT! is simply irrelevant since agent prominence is impossible (cf. (23)): no agent
marker is available for 2s. In (26-II), however, agent prominence can be achieved since the
number marker -ţi is indexed with the agent head. If this number marker now appears in the
prominent position right after the stem, PROMAGENT! will be satisfied. One strategy to real-
ize -ţi in this position is reordering between -u and -ţi as in candidate c. This is the strategy
that becomes optimal in Athpare (cf. (21)) or Limbu (cf. (13)), but is excluded in Camling.
Another possible repair, namely non-insertion of -u in candidate b. fares better since it only
violates lower-ranked PARSE-P rather than higher-ranked \P.
(26) Order and non-realization of -u in Camling
* *! * *
* *!
+ c.
* *
*! * *
+ b.
*! *
The different strategies of reordering and non-realization of an otherwise expected marker to
ensure that the agent argument is marked prominently are summarized in (27).
(27) Different repair strategies to ensure agent prominence
e.g. 1di3s excluded from PAG! repair
Athpare Σ-ţi-u *Σ-u-ţi á reordering of -u and -ţi
Camling Σ-ţi *Σ-u-ţi á absence of -u
The comparison with a closely related Kiranti language is striking evidence for the optimality-
theoretic approach I adopt here. The markedness constraint PROMAGENT! is active in different
languages and due to a slightly different ranking of general constraints, different repair strate-
gies to achieve agent prominence are predicted: non-insertion of a marker or reordering. This
is a straightforward prediction of an OT system where all possible rankings of existing con-
straints should yield existing grammars (the ‘factorial typology’ of a proposed constraint set
(Prince and Smolensky, 1993/2002)).
4 Alternative accounts
In this section, I compare several alternative OT accounts for linear order with my own proposal
and conclude that an approach based on ALIGNMENT and PROMAGENT! is not only empiri-
cally adequate for the Kiranti facts but also more economic from a theoretical perspective.
In Trommer (2003c), the ordering properties of agent agreement markers for person and number
features are the focus of the research. A sample of 58 languages is investigated that consists of
languages where ‘one agreement affix marks only one category C
(person and number) while
the other affix marks the other one, C
, and possibly also C
’ (Trommer, 2003c, 288). A clear
tendency is found that Ps N is the dominant order. This typological finding is hard-wired into
the proposed framework through the assumption of the two ALIGNMENT constraints in (28).
(28) Person-number asymmetry in Trommer (2003c)
a. L [+PER] (Person-Agreement is at the left edge)
b. [+NUM] R (Number-Agreement is at the right edge)
Person strives always to be aligned with the left edge of the stem whereas number strives to
be aligned with the right edge of the stem. In contrast, my analysis of the Kiranti affix order
is based on ALIGNMENT constraints referring only to the left edge of the stem that correctly
predict the hierarchy-based affix order P A N Ps. The constraint system in (28) does
not allow to predict a hierarchical affix order system where person affixes generally follow
number affixes. Trommer (2003c) argues that all the apparent counterexamples to this left-
right asymmetry are reanalyzable and adduces them to one of the following three instances:
1. the morphemes in question are rather incorporated quantifiers than affixes, or
2. the morphemes in question realize additional features as well, or
3. the morphemes in question have additional independently motivated context-restriction
to their position.
The Kiranti facts cannot be reanalysed in any of these ways. There is no evidence at all that the
number markers that consequently precede person markers in Kiranti are quantifiers. It is highly
implausible that the markers realize additional features (as in Trommer’s reanalysis of Isthmus
Zapotec facts where person markers are fused with gender marking) is highly unplausible as
well if one takes a look at their distribution throughout the Kiranti paradigms. An additional
context restriction that e.g. certain markers must remain adjacent to the stem or another affix
cannot be motivated neither: There is simply no such subcategorization requirement that would
apply consistently to all number or person affixes. The fact that number marking follows person
marking is argued to be a statistical finding in Trommer (2003c) and it is not surprising at all to
find exceptions to typological tendencies. But the Kiranti data are true counterevidence for the
optimality-theoretic analysis on affix order that Trommer (2003c) proposes on the basis of his
typological findings.
Other optimality-theoretic approaches to affix order might be very well able to predict the
Kiranti ordering facts, but are less general and consequently suffer from a severe lack of pre-
dictive power. This holds for morpheme-specific approaches like the ones in Paster (2006)
or Ryan and Schuh (under preparation) where constraints explicitly referring to specific mor-
phemes are assumed. The same critique applies to the approaches I summarized under the
heading of ‘templatic approaches’, i.e. approaches that assign exponents to specific position
classes (Anderson, 1992; Stump, 2001). Although the hierarchy of morpho-syntactic features
looks apparently similar to a list of affix slots, the crucial difference is that the former is spec-
ified for morpho-syntactic categories and the latter for specific morphemes and consequently
only active in a single language.
My approach for the affix order in Kiranti is at first glance very similar to the analysis for affix
order in Bantu languages argued for in Hyman (2003). Morpheme order in Bantu ‘represents a
language-specific resolution of a basic tension between two competing pressures: the pressure
for affix order to be compositional vs. the pressure for affix order to be fixed (invariant)’
(Hyman, 2003, 246). The former ‘pressure’ is ensured by a constraint MIRROR and the latter
by the constraint TEMPLATE demanding that a language-specific hierarchy of morpho-syntactic
features is obeyed in the affix order. The formal implementation is therefore different from the
one I propose: Only a single constraint ensures the hierarchy-governed order. For one, this
Another example for an apparent violation of the universal tendency for person affixes to precede number
affixes can be found in the verbal paradigm of Chamacoco as is discussed in Bertinetto (2011).
assumption makes the approach less general since language-specific hierarchies must be stored
in the grammar in addition to a constraint ranking of TEMPLATE and MIRROR. On the other
side, this approach seems to make the prediction that as soon as the hierarchy-governed order
can not be obtained between two morphemes, it is absent between all other morphemes of
this string as well. This follows since TEMPLATE is apparently not a gradient constraint. It is
defined as a constraint demanding that ‘[a] morpho-syntactic input {CAUS, APP} is realized
according to CARP’(Hyman, 2003, 249)
. As soon as the template is violated once, further
departures from the ‘templatic’ order in the affix string do not worsen the constraint profile.
This prediction is not borne out, at least not in Kiranti where the affix order always remains
as close as possible to the hierarchy of morpho-syntactic feature categories, even if a marked-
ness constraint makes this expected order impossible for a single morpheme: we observe the
unexpected order -ţi-u in some contexts, but all suffixes following these two markers are nev-
ertheless ordered according to the hierarchy, e.g. -ţi-u-Na-e (1de3).
Another OT-analysis on affix order can be found in Caballero (2010) where the variable suf-
fix order in Choguita Rarámuri is analysed. Her system is based on the interaction of scope,
morphotactic constraints, and phonological subcatgeorization. The second constraint type are
local morphotactic constraints of the form A > B, i.e. ‘morpho-syntactic category A must pre-
cede morpho-syntactic category B’. In addition, morphemes can be marked for a phonological
subcategorization requirement that is ensured through morpheme-specific ALIGNMENT con-
straints (e.g. ALIGN
‘The left edge of the evidential marker is aligned to the right edge of
the foot’ (Caballero, 2010, 193)). Such a system relying on three different constraint types that
govern the order of affixes is not only quite complex, it is also quite unrestrictive and allows
innumerable different interactions between scope, morphology and phonological subcatego-
rization – it remains to be shown that more of those patterns are borne out in the languages of
the world. In addition, her system is inherently language-specific: the morphotactic constraints
and the phonological subcategorization constraints are formulated for specific morphemes in a
specific language.
CARP = the default suffix ordering in most Bantu languages: Causative-Applicative-Reciprocal-Passive. (Hy-
man, 2003).
The OT system in Hyman (2003) is similar to my own approach in assuming the general archi-
tecture that there are at least two interacting constraint types: one predicting a default ordering
and one overwriting their effect on affix order in certain contexts (cf. also Stiebels (2003)). The
crucial difference between his and my own approach consists in the fact that semantic scope is
crucial in the affix order phenomena he analyses. I remained completely agnostic about pos-
sible interpretations of the Kiranti affix order in terms of scope and presented an analysis that
only referred to the morphological informations of the suffix string. As I already argued above,
a second difference is the fact that an approach where the non-scopal order is predicted from
ALIGNMENT constraints is the most general approach with fewer and more general constraints
as in, for example, the approach of Caballero (2010) where a lot of morpheme-specific con-
straints interact. In my approach, there is also no need to store a language-specific hierarchy
independently as in the approach proposed in Hyman (2003).
5 Conclusion
I presented an optimality-theoretic analysis for affix order patterns in Kiranti languages that
crucially refers to ALIGNMENT constraints on feature classes. Such an analysis avoids any
morpheme-specificity but directly implements a hierarchy of morpho-syntactic features. Since
constraints are violable in OT, the analysis allows and predicts departures from this hierarchy-
governed order in contexts where higher-ranked markedness constraints intervene. I argued that
reordering patterns found in Kiranti all follow from the concept of morphological prominence
demanding that the agent argument must be marked prominently and unambiguously: either
through the presence of a case marker or through an affix realizing agent features that is in a
prominent position in the affix string. A comparison with related languages provides evidence
for this kind of analysis where a slightly different pattern can be observed that results since
another repair strategy is employed to ensure morphological prominence for an argument.
This instance of hierarchy-governed affix order is particularly interesting from a typological
perspective as well since it orders number features above person features – contra to the typo-
logical tendency on affix order found in Trommer (2003a,c).
A Abbreviations
A agent-like argument of canonical transitive verb
D dual
P patient-like argument of canonical transitive verb.
PST past
Abbreviations used in the text
A agent-like argument of canonical transitive verb
d dual
de dual exclusive
di dual inclusive
DM Distributed Morphology
N number
OT Optimality theory
P patient-like argument of canonical transitive verb
p plural
pe plural exclusive
pi plural inclusive
Ps person
s singular
B Appendix: Paradigms
B.1 Athpare
(Ebert, 1997b)
(29) Surface forms for Athpare past (suffixes, C-final stem)
1s 1de 1pe 1di 1pi 2s 2d 2p 3s 3d 3p
1s -ne -naţe -nane -uNe -uiNe
1de -ne -naţe -nane -ţuNe -ţuNe
1pe -ne -naţe -nane -umme -umţimme
1di -ţue -ţue
1pi -ume -umţime
2s -Ne -ţiNe -iNe -ue -uţe
2d -ţiNe -ţiNe -iNe -ţue -ţue
2p -iNe -ţiNe -iNe -ume -umţime
3s -Ne -ţiNe -iNe -ţe -e -e -ţe -ie -ue -uţe
3d -ţiNe -ţiNe -iNe -ţe -ţe -e -ţe -ie -ţue -ţue
3p -Ne -ţiNe -iNe -ţe -e -e -ţe -ie -ue -uţe
intr -Ne -ţiNe -iNe -ţe -ie -e -ţe -ie -e -ţe -e
B.2 Camling
(Ebert, 1997a; Rai, 2003)
(30) Morphemes: Non-past paradigm for Camling (suffixes)
1s 1de 1pe 1di 1pi 2s 2d 2p 3s 3d 3p
1s -na-e -na-ţi-e -na-ni-e -˜@i -˜@i-ţi
1de -na-e -na-ţi-e -na-ni-e -ţi-ka-e -ţi-ka-e
1pe -na-e -na-ţi-e -na-ni-e -u-m-ka-e -u-m-ţi-ka-e
1di -ţi-e -ţi-e
1pi -u-m-e -u-m-ţi-e
2s -˜@i -ţi-ka-e -i-ka-e -jo -jo-ţi
2d -˜@i -ţi-ka-e -i-ka-e -ţi-e -ţi-e
2p -˜@i -ţi-ka-e -i-ka-e -u-m-e -u-m-ţi-e
3s -˜@i -ţi-ka-e -i-ka-e -ţi-e -i-e -e -ţi-e -i-e -jo -jo-ţi
3d -˜@i -ţi-ka-e -i-ka-e -ţi-e -i-e -e -ţi-e -i-e -ţi-e -ţi-e
3p -˜@i -ţi-ka-e -i-ka-e -ţi-e -i-e -e -ţi-e -i-e -e -e
intr -˜@i -ţi-ka-e -i-ka-e -ţi-e -i-e -e -ţi-e -i-e -e -ţi-e -e
(31) Surface forms for Camling non-past (suffixes, V-final stem)
1s 1de 1pe 1di 1pi 2s 2d 2p 3s 3d 3p
1s -ne -naţe -nane -˜@i -˜@iţ˜@i
1de -ne -naţe -nane -ţke -ţke
1pe -ne -naţe -nane -umke -umţumke
1di -ţe -ţe
1pi -ume -umţumne
2s -˜@i -ţke -imke -jo -joţjo
2d -˜@i -ţke -imke -ţe -ţe
2p -˜@i -ţke -imke -umne -umţumne
3s -˜@i -ţke -imke -ţe -ine -e -ţe -ine -jo -joţjo
3d -˜@i -ţke -imke -ţe -ine -e -ţe -ine -ţe -ţe
3p -˜@i -ţke -imke -ţe -ine -e -ţe -ine -e -e
intr -˜@i -ţke -imke -ţe -ine -e -ţe -ine -e -ţe -e
B.3 Limbu
(van Driem, 1987)
(32) Morphemes: Non-past paradigm for Limbu (suffixes)
1s 1de 1pe 1di 1pi 2s 2d 2p 3s 3d/p
1s -nε -nε-si-N -nε-i-N -u-N -u-N-si
1de -nε-si-ge -nε-si-ge -nε-si-ge -si-u-ge -si-u-si-ge
1pe -nε-si-ge -nε-si-ge -nε-si-ge -u-m-ge -u-m-si-ge
1di -si-u -si-u-si
1pi -u-m -u-m-si
2s -Pe -u -u-si
2d -si-u -si-u-si
2p -u-m -u-m-si
3s -Pe -si-ge -i-ge -si -si -i -u -u-si
3d -Pe -si-ge -i-ge -si -si -i -si-u -si-u-si
3p -Pe -si-ge -i-ge -si -si -i -u -u-si
intr -Pe -si-ge -i-ge -si -si -i -si
(33) Surface forms for Limbu non-past (suffixes, P-final stem)
1s 1de 1pe 1di 1pi 2s 2d 2p 3s 3d/p
1s -nε -nεţiN -niN -uN -uNsiN
1de -nεţige -nεţige -nεţige -suge -susige
1pe -nεţige -nεţige -nεţige -umbe -umsimbe
1di -su -susi
1pi -um -umsim
2s -Pe -u -usi
2d -su -susi
2p -um -umsim
3s -Pe -sige -ige -si -si -i -u -usi
3d -Pe -sige -ige -si -si -i -su -susi
3p -Pe -sige -ige -si -si -i -u -usi
intr -Pe -sige -ige -si -si -i -si
Ackerman, Farrell (2009), Affix ordering and the morphosyntax of object marking in moro’,
Invited Talk, LFG 2009. Cambridge University.
Alderete, John (2001), ‘Dominance effects as transderivational anti-faithfulness’, Phonology
18, 201–253.
Anderson, Stephen R. (1992), A-Morphous Morphology, Cambridge University Press, Cam-
Bank, Sebastian (2010), Automatic segmentation of transitive paradigms’, talk, given at the
Workshop of Fine Structure of Grammatical Relations, Leipzig. Handout available online at
Beckman, Jill (1998), Positional Faithfulness, PhD thesis, University of Massachusetts at
Bertinetto, Pier Marco (2011), ‘How the Zamuco languages dealt with verb affixes’, Word
Structure 4.2, 215–230.
Bickel, Balthasar (1998), ‘Rhythm and feet in Belhare morphology’, Ms. University of Cali-
fornia, Berkeley, available online at ROA 287.
Bickel, Balthasar (2003), Belhare, in G.Thurgood and R. J.LaPolla, eds, ‘The Sino-Tibetan
languages’, Routledge, London, pp. 546–70.
Bickel, Balthasar (2008), ‘Aspects of Kiranti syntax: grammatical relations’, Paper presented
at the Central Dept. of Linguistics. Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur.
Bickel, Balthasar, G. Banjade, Martin Gaenszle, Elena Lieven, Netra Paudyal, I. Rai, M. Rai,
N. Rai and Sabine Stoll (2007), ‘Free Prefix Ordering in Chintang’, Language 83, 43–73.
Bickel, Balthasar, Martin Gaenszle, Arjun Rai, Prem Dhoj Rai, Shree Kumar Rai, Vishnu Singh
Rai and Narayan P. (Gautam) Sharma (2007), ‘Two ways of suspending object agreement
in puma: Between incorporation, antipassivization, and optional agreement’, Himalayan
Linguistics 7, 1–18.
Bierwisch, Manfred (2006), ‘Luxury in natural language’, available on-
line at
Caballero, Gabriela (2010), ‘Scope, phonology and morphology in an agglutinating language:
Choguita Rarámuri (Tarahumara) variable suffix ordering’, Morphology 20, 165–204.
Carstairs-McCarthy, Andrew (1987), Allomorphy in Inflexion, London: Croom Helm.
Comrie, Bernard (1981), Language Universals and Linguistic Typology, Blackwell.
de Hoop, Helen and Andrej L. Malchukov (2008), ‘Case-marking strategies’, Linguistic Inquiry
39, 565–587.
de Lacy, Paul (1999), Morphological haplology and correspondence, in Lacy and
A.Nowak, eds, ‘University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguistics 25: Papers
from the 25th Anniversary’, GLSA, pp. 51–88.
Doornenbal, Marius (2009), A Grammar of Bantawa, LOT.
Ebert, Karen H. (1997a), Camling, Lincom Europa.
Ebert, Karen H. (1997b), A Grammar of Athpare, Lincom Europa, München, Newcastle.
Frampton, John (2003), Syncretism, impoverishment, and the structure of person features, in
‘CLS 38’, papers from the 2002 Chicago Linguistic Society Meeting.
Gaenszle, Martin (1995), ‘Aspects of mewahang verbal morphology’, unpublished.
Halle, Morris (1997), Distributed Morphology: Impoverishment and fission, in
Y. K.Benjamin Bruening and M.McGinnis, eds, ‘Papers at the Interface’, Vol. 30 of MIT
Working Papers in Linguistics, Cambridge MA: MITWPL, pp. 425–449.
Halle, Morris and Alec Marantz (1993), Distributed Morphology and the pieces of inflection,
in K.Hale and S. J.Keyser, eds, ‘The View from Building 20’, Cambridge MA: MIT Press,
pp. 111–176.
Halle, Morris and Alec Marantz (1994), Some key features of Distributed Morphology, in
A.Carnie and H.Harley, eds, ‘Papers on Phonology and Morphology’, Vol. 21 of MIT Work-
ing Papers in Linguistics, Cambridge MA: MITWPL, pp. 275–288.
Hargus, Sharon and Siri Tuttle (1997), Augmentation as affixation in athabaskan languages’,
Phonology 14, 177–220.
Harley, Heidi and Rolf Noyer (1999), ‘Distributed morphology’, Glot International 4(4). avail-
able under:
Haspelmath, Martin (2000), ‘Optimality and diachronic adaption’, Zeitschrift für Sprachwis-
senschaft 18, 180–205.
Hyman, Larry M. (2003), Suffix ordering in Bantu: A morphocentric account, in G.Booij and
J.van der Marle, eds, ‘Yearbook of Morphology 2002’, Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 245–281.
Kim, Yuni (2010), ‘Phonological and morphological conditions on Affix Order’, Morphology
20, 133–163.
McCarthy, John and Alan Prince (1993), ‘Generalized alignment’, Yearbook of Morphology
pp. 79–153.
McCarthy, John and Alan Prince (1995), Faithfulness and reduplicative identity, in J.Beckman,
L.Dickey and S.Urbanczyk, eds, ‘University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguis-
tics’, GLSA, Amherst, MA, pp. 249–384.
McGinnis, Martha (1996), Two kinds of blocking, in H.-D.Ahn, M.-Y.Kang, Y.-S.Kim and
S.Lee, eds, ‘Morphosyntax in Generative Grammar: Proceedings of the 1996 Seoul Interna-
tional Conference on Generative Grammar’, Seoul: Hankuk Publishing Co, pp. 357–368.
Menn, Lise and Brian McWhinney (1984), ‘The repeated morph constraint’, Language
60, 519–541.
Michailovsky, Boyd (1994), Manner vs. place of articulation in the kiranti initial stops, in
H. T.Nishida and Y.Nagano, eds, ‘Current Issues in Sino-Tibetan linguistics’, Osaka: Na-
tional Museum of Ethnology.
Müller, Gereon (2002), Free word order, morphological case, and sympathy theory, in
G.Fanselow and C.Féry, eds, ‘Resolving Conflicts in Grammars’, Buske, pp. 9–48.
Müller, Gereon (2006a), Global impoverishment in Sierra Popoluca, in G.Müller and
J.Trommer, eds, ‘Linguistische Arbeits Berichte Leipzig’, Vol. 84, Institut für Linguistik:
Universität Leipzig, Leipzig, pp. 23–42.
Müller, Gereon (2006b), Notes on paradigm economy, in ‘Linguistische Arbeits Berichte
Leipzig’, Vol. 84, Institut für Linguistik: Universität Leipzig, pp. 161–195.
Müller, Gereon (2006c), Subanalyse verbaler Flexionsmarker, in E.Breindl, L.Gunkel and
B.Strecker, eds, ‘Grammatische Untersuchungen’, Narr, Tübingen, pp. 183–203.
Nelson, Nicole Alice (2003), Asymmetric Achoring, PhD thesis, Rutgers University.
Nevins, Andrew (to appear), ‘Morphophonological dissimilation, morphosyntactic dissimila-
tion, and the architecture of exponence’, for "The Handbook of Exponence", ed. by Jochen
Trommer, draft of February 2010.
Noyer, Robert R. (1992), Features, Positions and Affixes in Autonomous Morphological Struc-
ture, PhD thesis, MIT.
Noyer, Robert R. (1998), Impoverishment theory and morphosyntactic markedness, in
D. K. B.Steven G. Lapointe and P. M.Farrell, eds, ‘Morphology and its Relation to Mor-
phology and Syntax’, Stanford: CSLI, pp. 264–286.
Opgenort, Jean (2005), A grammar of Jero, Brill‘s Tibetan Languages Studies.
Paster, Mary (2006), ‘Pulaar verbal extensions and phonologically driven affix order’, Yearbook
of Morphology pp. 155–199.
Pertsova, Katya (2007), Learning Form-Meaning Mappings in Presence of Homonymy, PhD
thesis, UCLA.
Plag, Ingo (1998), Morphological haplology in a constraint-based morpho-phonology, in
W.Kehrein and R.Wiese, eds, ‘Phonology and Morphology of the Germanic Languages’,
Tübingen: Niemeyer, pp. 199–215.
Prince, Alan and Paul Smolensky (1993/2002), ‘Optimality theory: Constraint interaction in
generative grammar’, [first circulated as Prince & Smolensky (1993) Technical reports of the
Rutgers University Center of Cognitive Science], ROA 537-0802.
Rai, Vishnu S. (2003), Descriptive grammar of Chamling, PhD thesis, Leiden University.
Ryan, Kevin (2010), ‘Variable affix order: grammar and learning’, Language 86, 758–791.
Ryan, Kevin and Russell Schuh (under preparation), ‘Suffix doubling and suffix deletion in
Bole’, available at
Schackow, Diana (2010), ‘Aspects of Yakkha Grammar’, working paper, available online.
Siewierska, Anna (2004), Person, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Steriade, Donca (1995), ‘Positional neutralization’, ms. UCLA.
Stiebels, Barbara (2003), Transparent, restricted and opaque affix orders, in U.Junghanns and
L.Szucsich, eds, ‘Syntactic Structures and Morphological Information’, Mouton de Gruyter,
Berlin, pp. 283–315.
Stump, Gregory T. (1996), Template morphology and inflectional morphology, in G.Booij and
J.van der Marle, eds, ‘Yearbook of Morphology 1996’, Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 217–241.
Stump, Gregory T. (2001), Inflectional Morphology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Stump, Gregory T. (2006), Template morphology, in K.Brown, ed., ‘Encyclopedia of Language
and Linguistics’, Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 559–563.
Trommer, Jochen (2001), A Hybrid Account of Affix Order, in M.Andronis, C.Ball, H.Elston
and S.Neuvel, eds, ‘CLS 37: The Panels. Papers from the 37th Meeting of the Chicago
Linguistic Society’, Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society, pp. 469–480.
Trommer, Jochen (2003a), Distributed Optimality, PhD thesis, University of Potsdam.
Trommer, Jochen (2003b), Hungarian has no portmanteau agreement, in P.Siptár and C.Pinón,
eds, ‘Approaches to Hungarian’, Vol. 9, Akadémiai Kiadó, pp. 283–302.
Trommer, Jochen (2003c), The interaction of morphology and syntax in affix order, in ‘Year-
book of Morphology 2002’, Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 283–324.
Trommer, Jochen (2011), ‘Paradigmatic generalization of morphemes’, Linguistische Arbeits
Berichte Leipzig 88, 227–246.
Urbanczyk, Suzanne (2001), Patterns of reduplication in Lushootseed, Garland, New York.
van Driem, George (1987), A Grammar of Limbu, Mouton de Gruyter.
van Driem, George (1992), ‘Le Proto-Kiranti revisité, morphologie verbale du Lohorung’, Acta
Linguistica Hafniensia 24, 33–75.
van Driem, George (2001), Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the
Greater Himalayan Region, Leiden: Brill.
Yip, Moira (1998), Identity avoidance in phonology and morphology, in S. G.Lapointe,
D. K.Brentari and P. M.Farrell, eds, ‘Morphology and its relation to morphology and syntax’,
CSLI Publications, Stanford, CA, pp. 216–247.
Zimmermann, Eva (2012), ‘Mora usurpation in Yine’, ms. University of Leipzig.
Zoll, Cheryl (1998), ‘Positional asymmetries and licensing’, ms. ROA-282-0998.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The purpose of this paper is to offer a plausible reconstruction of the verb inflection paradigms of two genetically related Zamuco languages (Ayoreo and Chamacoco), whose patterns present several points of interest. In particular, one of the two paradigms exhibits a striking violation of a robust generalization concerning affix order, dictating that person markers should precede number markers, irrespective of their position in relation to the root. Careful analysis of the historical data suggests a plausible solution to this puzzle.
In dieser Dissertation schlage ich eine Synthese (Distributed Optimality, DO) von Optimalitätstheorie und einem derivationellen, morphologischem Asatz, Distributed Morphology (DM; Halle & Marantz, 1993) vor. Durch die Integration von OT in DM wird es möglich, Phänomene, die in DM durch sprachspezifische Regeln oder Merkmale von lexikalischen Einträge erfasst werden, auf die Interaktion von verletzbaren, universellen Constraints zurückzuführen. Andererseits leistet auch DM zwei substantielle Beiträge zu DO, Lokalität und Impoverishment. Lokalität erlaubt eine formal einfache Interpretation von DO, während sich Impoverishment als unverzichtbar erweist, um Kongruenz-Morphologie adäquat zu beschreiben. Die empirische Grundlage der Arbeit sind die komplexen Kongruenzsysteme von genetisch unterschiedlichen Sprachen. Der theoretische Schwerpunkt liegt in zwei Bereichen: Erstens, sogenannte Direkt/Invers-Markierung, für die gezeigt wird, dass eine Behandlung durch Constraints über Merkmalsrealisierung am angemessensten ist. Zweitens, die Effekte von Abfolge-Constraints, die den Satus von Affixen als Präfixe und Suffixe sowie ihre relative Reihenfolge regeln. Eine konkrete Typologie für die Abfolge von Kongruenz-Affixen auf der Basis von OT-Constraints wird vorgeschlagen.
Syncretism in inflectional paradigms corresponds often only partially to natural classes. In this paper, I propose Morpheme Generalization Grammars, a novel paradigm-based approach to this phenomenon where the morphosyntactic content of every affix corresponds to the maximal area of the paradigm where it regularly occurs, whereas additional Morpheme Generalization Rules selectively extend its paradigmatic coverage by deleting part of the featural content of affixes for specific paradigm cells. The resulting formalism maximizes the use of paradigmatic extension rules familiar from the Rules of Referral in Paradigm Function Morphology, but has also close parallels to Impoverishment rules in Distributed Morphology. By imposing inherent restrictions on the content of inflectional affixes, it substantially reduces the amount of analytic ambiguity in the modeling of inflectional morphology.