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The phonology and morphology of Filomeno Mata Totonac

  • Author(s): McFarland, Teresa Ann
  • Advisor(s): Inkelas, Sharon
  • et al.


The phonology and morphology of Filomeno Mata Totonac


Teresa Ann McFarland

Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Sharon Inkelas, Chair

This dissertation constitutes a descriptive grammar of the phonology and morphology of Filomeno Mata Totonac that highlights typologically unusual phenomena of theoretical interest. Filomeno Mata (FM) Totonac is a member of the Totonac-Tepehua family (eastern Mexico), spoken in and around the municipality whose name it borrows in the state of Veracruz. It is a polysynthetic, highly agglutinating, head-marking variety with VSO word order and complex verbal morphology that has not previously been described by linguists. This grammar is based on fieldwork conducted by the author between 2003 and 2009.

Some of the grammatical phenomena described herein which may be of interest to theoreticians and typologists include:

* Glottalization or aspiration and vowel devoicing to mark prosodic boundaries

* Postlexical nasal epenthesis at word-word and clitic-stem boundaries between a vowel and a stop or affricate

* Stress shift as a marker of interrogative utterances, which may occur on the verb or other sentencial elements

* A large set of ideophones marked by reduplication and sound symbolism in the categories of sound and manner of motion adverbials, colors, odors/flavors, and descriptive adjectives

* Complex inflectional combinatorics that feature long distance blocking, compositionality of certain person agreement markers, and glottalization and suppletion to mark second person subjects

* Typologically unusual free variation in the ordering of verbal morphemes in a middle zone of affixes on either side of the root, without scopal or semantic significance; mostly involving derivational affixes, but also including one inflectional prefix

* A gradient rather than categorical distinction between clitics and affixes, with the four relevant tests often giving conflicting results

* An unusually large number of object-related deverbal nominalization constructions, including agentive, locative, instrumental, purpose, and result nominalizations, as well as an unusual deverbal `ought to' construction.

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