Demorphologization of the nominal complex in Circassian
The topic of this article has to do with the types of interaction between prefixes and suffixes in the morphological structure and semantic interpretation of the extremely complex polysynthetic Adyghe verbal form. As we show, the relationships between the elements of the different parts of the verbal form are both non-trivial and heterogeneous, which suggests that affix interaction can be an important parameter of morphological complexity in languages.
The cases of interaction between prefixes and suffixes vary in three parameters: 1) the direction of restriction (from suffix to prefix or the other way around); 2) semantic relations between suffix and prefix; 3) range of restriction (suffix and prefix impossible without each other; possible, but with an idiomatic meaning, and so on).
Restrictions of the Adyghe type can be an important criterion for grammatical semantics and morphology, since they show which meanings and to which extent are conceptualized as close to each other by the language system.
This paper discusses the morphological and syntactic means of expression of participants in morphology and syntax of West Circassian (Adyghe) focusing on the argument vs adjunct characteristics of these means. West Circassian provide evidence for the non-discretness of the argument/adjunct contrast but also shows the necessity to distinguish between argument/adjunct properties in morphological expressions and in syntactic expressions.
In this paper I will analyse the syntactic properties of valency-changing derivations and other syntactic processes in Adyghe (a language of the West Caucasian family spoken in the Republic of Adygheya and the Krasnodar region of Russia, and also in some countries of western Asia such as Turkey). My aim is to determine whether these processes testify to syntactic ergativity or accusativity in Adyghe, or whether they in fact shed no light at all on the question of Adyghe alignment behaviour.
In the present paper, I base my analysis of syntactic ergativity on the evidence of valency-changing derivation only. I choose not to consider other pivot properties related to ergativity / accusativity (coordination reduction, relativization, subordinate clauses etc.; see Dixon 1994; Van Valin and LaPolla 1997). It seems to me more justifiable to restrict myself to the data presented by derivational behaviour alone, since in a single article it is impossible to analyse the whole range of data related to ergativity in a polysynthetic language like Adyghe; moreover, the valency-changing derivational system may be organized ergatively, for example, while other syntactic processes are organized accusatively, or vice versa.
The processes analysed in this paper can be divided into two groups, based on the kind of information they provide about ergativity in Adyghe.
First of all, there are derivations which can be regarded as semantically motivated (though syntactic motivation can also be proposed for these processes).
Secondly, there are derivations which are only compatible with transitive verbs, namely the inadvertitive and potential. These transformations are more significant for our analysis, since they show that Adyghe is syntactically ergative.
The paper surveys various approaches to polysynthetic languages and demonstrates that the criteria for characterizing a language as a polysynthetic one are either not clear or only hold for some of the polysynthetic languages. It is argued that polysynthetic languages do not constitute a homogeneous class, yet the idea of polysynthesis may reflect certain diachronic processes.