Volume 46, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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As one of the most robust typological findings, the suffixing preference captures the empirical observation that grammatical categories are more likely to be coded by suffixes than by prefixes. The goal of this contribution is to explore the effects that this asymmetry may have on the inflectional paradigms of the languages of the world. Three empirical issues are addressed: do languages with either possessive prefixes or suffixes and languages with both possessive prefixes and suffixes differ in their suffix-to-prefix ratio? Do prefixes and suffixes differ in the number of cases that they code? Do prefixes and suffixes differ in their probability of explicit singular in addition to plural marking? The answer to all three questions is in the affirmative. These effects are understood in terms of a response to an inherent disadvantage of prefixes. Morphological systems reduce the processing difficulty incurred by prefixes by assigning them fewer tasks (i.e. number of cases), by limiting their occurrence in highly competitive contexts (i.e. inconsistent possessive-affix coding) and by creating prefix paradigms, which are conceived of as protective structures in which the individual members strengthen one another. The general claim these three effects lead up to is that morphological systems develop “repair strategies” which reduce the processing cost involved in using inherently disadvantaged units. These repair strategies shape morphological structure.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): case; paradigm; plural; possession; processing cost; suffixing preference
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