Vb infixed plurals in Jebbāli

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Quite a large number of nouns in Jebbāli exhibit infixation of Vb in their plural formation. The locus of the Vb infix, which systematically occurs in the middle of a CVCCVC stem, is unusual as it differs from the cross-linguistically common loci of infixation. According to Yu (A natural history of infixation, 2006), a survey of 154 infixation patterns in more than 100 languages "revealed that infixes invariably appear near one of the edges of a stem or next to a stressed unit... [and] 137 of these infixes (i.e. 89 %) are edge-oriented" (p. 3). In Jebbāli, the placement of infixation is driven by two forces. First, the plural forms are constrained to begin and end with stem material (i.e. material in correspondence to the singular), barring the Vb affix from occurring as a prefix or suffix. Second, the Vb infix is prosodically constrained, so that it cannot span two syllables. This paper provides a new theoretical approach to a less common pattern of infix placement, using the framework of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky in Optimality theory, RUCCS TR-2, 1993, Optimality theory: constraint interaction in generative grammar, 2004). Since the locus of infixation in Jebbāli is not determined by a desire to be near a word edge or prosodically prominent position, and there is a tendency in the language to limit affixes to maximally one syllable, the analysis incorporates Affix≤σ which simultaneously addresses infix placement and size, ensuring that the analysis is extendable to other affixes in the language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-119
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • Infixation
  • Jebbāli
  • Labial deletion
  • Optimality Theory
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics


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