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Transitivity, modality, and voice in Waray

Thomas E. Payne & Voltaire Q. Oyzon

Date of publication:

December 31, 2020

This paper provides a fresh look at the verb morphology of Waray, the major language of Samar, Leyte, and Biliran islands. The main contribution of this study is to identify a relatively small set of inflectional affixes, one and only one of which is required in order to allow a word form to function as a verbal predicate. We show that transitivity and modality are the two major dimensions of this paradigm. Inflectional affixes are distinct from a larger set of morphological processes which we identify as stem-forming. These processes are not grammatically required and are not paradigmatic. Zero to four stem-forming processes may contribute to a word form functioning as a verbal predicate. We contend that the "voice system" of Waray is the result of the interaction between the dimension of transitivity in the inflectional paradigm and applicative processes in the stem-forming group. We believe that this way of looking at clause structure in a Philippine language is more consistent with what is known about the typological characteristics of languages in general than the traditional voice or focus approaches. While Philippine languages are indeed unique and special in many ways, there is no need to posit a typologically rare or unique "Philippine type" voice system. We believe this approach will demystify the clause structure of Philippine languages for linguists who work outside of Philippinist traditions.

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