Verb morphology in Gikuyu in the Light of Morpho-syntactic Theories
Mwangi, Phyllis W.
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Among the many controversies in linguistics today, there are two that have captured our interest. The first and the main one involves the status of morphology and its relationship with other components of grammar like syntax, phonology and semantics. Some linguists believe morphology can adequately be catered for in these other components and therefore does not need a separate component in language. Others however feel that there are issues that are morphology-specific worth studying. The second controversy addressed in this work involves the distinction normally drawn between inflection and derivation. There are those who believe that the dividing line between the two is rather fuzzy and not really meaningful. The opposing camp, however, thinks that the two are distinct. Our research was prompted by these two debates. In addressing the first one, we have looked at morphological and syntactic implications of four valency-changing morphemes in Gikuyu, namely: the applicative, the causative, the passive and the stative. We have sought to explain the syntactic effects of the affixation of these morphemes within the Merger Theory (Marantz, 1984) and the Incorporation Theory (Baker, 1988a,b), both of which are syntactic in orientation. As a preliminary to the above task however, this research addresses the distinction drawn between inflection and derivation in Gikuyu. We have employed four distinguishing criteria on the four morphemes in order to determine to what extent each exhibits features associated with inflection on the one hand and derivation on the other. In relation to the first research issue, we have found that the syntactic theories of Merger (Marantz, 1984) and Incorporation (Baker, 1988a,b) cannot adequately account for the morpho-syntactic behaviour of valency-altering morphemes in Gikuyu. We have explained what the shortcomings of the theories are, and where possible, suggested alternative analysis. Finally, we have concluded that although morphology interacts closely with other components of language, it retains a distinct place in the study of language. We have recommended that further research is necessary in this area, especially geared towards a lexical- functional approach given the rich and complex morphology evident in Gikuyu and in Bantu languages generally. Concerning the distinction between inflection and derivation, our analysis has shown that the four distinguishing criteria do not give conclusive results, tbus making it difficult for us to classify the morphemes as either inflectional or derivational. In view of this, we have reformulated the distinguishing criteria to suit Gikuyu after arguing that the distinction is necessary especially for lexicographical purposes.