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From prefixes to suffixes: Typological change in Northern Australia

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This article provides a counterexample to the commonly held, if unexamined, proposition that morphemes reconstructed as affixes do not change their position with respect to the root. We do not expect to find that a proto-prefix has suffix reflexes, nor that a proto-suffix has prefix reflexes. In this paper we show, through detailed reconstruction, that paradigms of class/case suffixes in a number of Northern Australian languages derive historically from a paradigm of proto-prefixes, through the encliticization and reduction of prefixed demonstratives to nominals. This process has only left a few traces of the demonstrative stems in the synchronic forms.
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Keywords: Australian languages; Mirndi languages; diachronic morphology; nominal suffixes; prefixes; reconstruction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Newcastle 2: University of Adelaide 3: University of Melbourne

Publication date: 01 January 2006

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