South African Journal of African Languages

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Discontinuous elements in morphology

IM Kosch


This article probes into the nature of discontinuous elements in the morphology of some Africanlanguages, but in Northern Sotho in particular. The discussion is conducted against the backdrop of twoprinciples which are generally held to be characteristic of ‘pure’ agglutinative languages, namely theprinciple of invariance of morphemes and the principle of a one-to-one matching between a form anda meaning. Agglutinating languages such as the African languages, including Northern Sotho, displaydeviations from these ideal agglutinative norms. The deviations may assume various forms, but in thisarticle the scope is narrowed down to instances where the deviations manifest as ‘discontinuous’ or‘interrupted’ elements. Terms such as infixes, circumfixes and extended exponents, which form an integralpart of the discussion, are elucidated.

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