Verbal Suppletion in Yelmek

Tina engaging in research

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Friday 17 May 2019


Basham Room Baldessin Precinct Building


Tina Gregor


Tina Gregor

When starting to work on a previously under-described language, one never knows what might come up. The hope of course always is, to find something fascinating that is at odds with the current literature. My PhD project is a grammatical description and documentation of the small, endangered language Yelmek, spoken in the south of Indonesian New Guinea. In this presentation, I will talk about what I consider Yelmek’s claim to fame.

Yelmek shows a very interesting, and to my knowledge unheard of, pattern of gender suppletion on verbs. Suppletion is a morphological phenomenon, in which a maximally regular grammatical distinction is marked formally maximally irregularly. Verbal suppletion has been treated in the literature as a rather marginal morphological phenomenon, one that only concerns a very limited number of verbs in a given language and is just an irregularity in a paradigm, not truly paradigmatic. When not ignored, it is often explained away. Verbal suppletion in Yelmek does not only presents a case that is much harder to dismiss, it also concerns gender, which has not been discussed in the literature on verbal suppletion. In this talk, I will walk you through arguments made in the literature and how they relate to Yelmek.

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