The Nature of Allomorphy: Evidence from Burushaski Plurals
Patrik Bye [+]
University of Nordland/University of Tromsø
Important early work on phonologically conditioned allomorphy in OT argued that suppletive allomorph distribution (SAD) could be seen in terms of the emergence of the unmarked (e.g. Tranel 1994, Mascaró 1996). Later work by Paster (2006) and Bye (2007), however, has provided evidence that at least some cases of SAD are arbitrary. Such cases crucially require encoding the condition into either the lexical specification of the allomorph or the lexically specific constraints that refer to it. The formation of the plural in Burushaski, a language isolate of northern Pakistan, is a case study in arbitrary SAD. The realization of the plural is extraordinarily rich in suppletive allomorphs. To the extent that it is rule-governed, the distribution of these allomorphs may nevertheless be underdetermined by considerations of markedness or, in some cases, even the opposite of what one would expect on phonological grounds. For some suppletive allomorphs, moreover, semantic conditioning is also involved, underscoring the arbitrary nature of the distribution. Plural formation is, further, rich in exceptions, although the exceptionality is clearly patterned (Zuraw 2000). Considerations of markedness, generality of the allomorph, and phonetic similarity between exceptional forms and their ‘attractors’ are shown to play a role in shaping the exceptional patterns.