Inflectional Classes in Morphology

The Reconstruction of Inflectional Classes in Morphology

History, Method, and Pama-Nyungan (Australian) Verbs

By Harold Koch

This paper surveys the approaches that have been taken to the synchronic description of the inflectional classes of verbs of the Pama-Nyungan family of Australian languages, highlighting problems with the application of the concept of the morpheme, and the notion of “conjugation markers”. It then summarizes and critically assesses attempts to reconstruct the prehistory of Pama-Nyungan verb inflection, considering primarily the contrasting approaches of Dixon (1980, 2002) and Alpher (1990). The methodological requirements for such a reconstruction are then discussed. Finally, the proposed principles are applied first to the internal reconstruction of verbs in Walmajarri, a language of the Ngumpin-Yapa subgroup, then to the comparative reconstruction of some Pama-Nyungan (monosyllabic) verbs that display heterogeneous patterns of inflection.