Morphological Analysis of Two Mystery Languages



This assignment consists of two data sets which are both based on modified versions of real languages. Your task is to break the code and describe the morphology of the languages based on these data sets.


First of all, go through the data for each language, working out with the help of the English glosses which bits mean what. Treat the forms which are separated by spaces as single words. Remember not to expect that every word in the English glosses will correspond to a specific morpheme in the data sets below. Remember, too, that not all grammatical categories are necessarily relevant to every word class.


Do not attempt to discover which languages these are; you are meant to analyse the data sets yourself, not to find someone else’s answer. Finally, the quickest way to make progress in the analysis of any data is to form hypotheses and check them.




Part 1: This section concerns Mystery Language C [30 marks]


Questions 1 to 5 concern the following data set:

Mystery Language C: English gloss:
1. natuwi ‘I ate’
2. nakuwi ‘I’ll eat’
3. natuwaw ‘did I eat?’
4. natusi ‘we two ate’
5. natũni ‘we ate’
6. nakũni ‘we’ll eat’
7. natãni ‘they ate’
8. natasi ‘they two ate’
9. nakãnaw ‘will they eat?’


  1. Construct a lexicon using consisting of all morphemes (meaningful units) for Mystery Language C along with their meanings or functions and including ø morphemes (zero morphemes) if relevant. You should identify the groups or word classes for the language on the basis of their form and behaviour (i.e. using ‘formal criteria’), as discussed in the lectures prior to the break. Where possible, use appropriate terminology for the labels in your lexicon so that it is clear which groups/categories are relevant to which other groups/categories.

Use the chart provided for you below to organise and label your lexicon. You may need more categories than those provided. Please expand the table as necessary. HINT: The word-final {-i} morpheme indicates that the verb is in the indicative mood. [15 marks]


Category Name      verb root Category Name       subject marke
Morpheme(s) Gloss Morpheme(s) Gloss
 natu–wi I-ate natu–si we-two-ate
Category Name   subject marke Category Name       verb root
Morpheme Gloss Morpheme Gloss
naku–wi I-ll-eat natũ–ni we-ate
Category Name          verb root Category Name         subject marke
Morpheme Gloss Morpheme Gloss
natu-w–aw did-i-eat nakũ–ni we-ll-eat


  1. Write a formula for the structure of verbs in terms of root and affixes. [5 marks]

V = {root} + {affixes} + {subject marker} + {sentences mood}.

  1. Describe any allomorphic variation and what conditions it. In addition to your explanation, provide a rule using the notation discussed in lectures, practice problems and tutorials. [3 marks]

The allomorphic variation in the mysterious language lies in the tense and whether it is plural or singular.

  1. Provide your segmentation of morphemes for data point 9. [2 marks]

Na-kã- naw

  1. Provide a translation of the English question ‘will we two eat?’ into Mystery Language C. [5 marks]


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