Determining the semantics of Inuktitut postbases

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This paper examines a number of properties of Inuktitut postbases, which are affixal morphemes that appear between the root and inflection. These morphemes are the source of polysynthesis in Inuktitut, since they allow the word to expand in principle indefinitely. A number of authors have pointed out that these elements are quite abstract in meaning. We argue that this property stems from the fact that they are all functional morphemes (Harley and Noyer 2000), i.e., grammatical elements. Their ordering is based on hierarchical relations which are determined by universals (Fortescue 1980; Cinque 1999). We show that both the affixal nature and abstract semantics of these elements have independent sources and result from general properties of the syntax, not from individual and idiosyncratic lexical specification.


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