Circumfixation: Interface of Morphology and Syntax in Igbo Derivational Morphology

B.M. Mbah
2012 IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science  
This study is an attempt to describe circumfixation in the Igbo language. Its specific objectives include determining how circumfixation applies within and across lexical boundaries in the language. It tries to identify the types of circumfix in the language. It examines the tonal changes that occur in the process of circumfixation. The approach adopted in the study is morpho-syntactic. It shows how syntactic patterns are modifed to form morphological forms. The paper found out that
more » ... on, contrary to popular view, is prevalent in the language. Furthermore, quite unlike in many languages where it has been reported to be highly irregular; it is to a large extent regular in Igbo. Tone plays an important role in the formation of words through circumfixation. After circumflection, the tone pattern of the root or stem is changed though the syllable structure of Igbo is retained. The discontinuous parts of the circumfix are each a syllable, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the root word. There are two types of circumflection in the language: the obligatory complement taking and the non-obligatory complement taking circumfixation. The non-obligatory complement taking circumfixation usually forms a free form, which can stand independently as any other lexical item of the language. On the contrary, in the obligatory complement taking circumfixation, the nature of the complement determines whether the discontinuous end of the circumfix is desyllabified or otherwise. If the following complement begins in a vowel, the circumfix loses the syllable status of the discontinuous end of the circumfix. It turns into a liaison thereby making the circumfix function as a bridge between the root word and the complement. The exception to this rule is in forming negatives. In the latter situation, a compound form is created while in the former two words in associative construction are recognised. I. Introduction An important characteristic of language is that it has the ability to generate lexical items from bits of sounds and morphemes. Morphology is the study of word formation in language. In morphology, there are two main processes of word formation, namely inflectional and derivational morphology. Derivational morphology is class changing whereas the result of inflectional morphology is non-class changing. In either of the genres of word formation, affixation is the device used in generating lexical items. Circumfixation appears to be the least studied when compared to prefixation, infixation, interfixation, suffixation and suprafixation. Part of the reason is that circumfixation is not attested in many languages as the other types of affixation. Furthermore, scholars have not agreed on the status of circumfixation across languages. The phenomenon is still controversial (see Scalise, 1984). Schultink (1987) posits that it violates the constraint on binary branching because its elements occur at the beginning and end of the word which hosts it. Kayne (1994) lists the conditions on binary branching in a syntactic percolation, namely: it must be transitive, anti-symmetrical and total. On the other hand, Zwicky (1985) argues that the head of a morphosyntactic percolation bears the morphosyntactic locus. In other words, it is the place where the affixes are attached. Circumfixation does not observe these features. The two discontinuous parts of the circumfix cannot be independently hosted by any word without making the word unacceptable. It is in view of the above controversies and the insular nature of circumfixation that we elect to investigate it in Igbo. The Igbo language is an East Benue Congo language of the Niger Congo phylum spoken in South Eastern Nigeria.
doi:10.9790/0837-0560108 fatcat:627ffmcjufgxdejpccw25d2mbm