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Homework on Morphology

The purpose of this project is to use the Jola noun class system to become familiar with some basic ideas of morphology, such as the following: Morphemes are a pairing of sound and meaning/function, but the two don’t always match up neatly. The meaning/function of a morpheme can be different in different contexts. Morphological processes (e.g. rules) can be general or specific, or somewhere in between. Rules often have exceptions. Some rules or generalizations have a semantic side, others are just morphological. Morphology sometimes interacts with phonology. This project will get you familiar with some of the ways affixes and roots can interact, and get you familiar with the nature of some kinds of morphological categories.

Answer the following questions and do the following tasks based on information from the

“Kujamaat Jóola Noun Classes” section on pages 58-67 of our textbook (Aronoff & Fudeman 2011, hereafter “AF”), and class lectures and activities. Some of the transcriptions on this handout may be different from what would be found in the book because my source used a different transcription system. This project has a total of eight questions/sections.

FORMAT: Type as much as possible. (If you want to write Jola data by hand, that’s okay.) Make your project neat!

  1. What is a noun class?
  2. What is a bound root?
  3. What is a noun-class prefix?
  4. What is a gender?
  5. What is meant by ‘semantic core’ of a gender?
    1. Arrange the nouns in the following list according to the Jola gender that they belong to. Use the following genders: Gender 1/2, Gender 3/4, Gender 5/6, Gender 7/8, Gender 9/8, Gender 10/11.
    2. When you copy the noun under the appropriate gender, separate the prefix from the root with a hyphen.
    3. Put each gender into a separate chart. At the top of each chart, identify the gender by number, and indicate what the prefixes are.
    4. Below the chart, include a discussion in which you do the following:

    5. Indicate the allomorphs of the prefixes where appropriate, and state the distribution of the allomorphs.
    6. State the semantic core of the gender and indicate any derivational or other grammatical function that the gender may have. (A gender may have more than one semantic core.) Discuss any motivation for why the roots belong in the gender in which they appear. If there are any reasons why the root might have appeared in a different gender, discuss those possibilities. Carefully describe any exceptions to the generalizations you make or to the generalizations made in AF.

EXAMPLE (with data from the textbook):

Gender 1/2 consists of Class 1 with the prefix a- (singular), and Class 2 with ku- (plural). Its members include the following, in the left-to-right order ‘singular noun’, gloss, ‘plural noun’:

a-sEf (from French)







‘Jola person’


The prefixes appear in their tense and lax allomorphs, depending on whether there is a tense vowel in the root.

This gender is called the ‘personal’ gender. Its semantic core is humans, and it consists entirely of humans. The words in the table above appear in Gender 1/2 because they designate humans. We might a have expected /a-sEf/ to appear in gender 3/4 since it is a borrowed word, but apparently the semantic criterion of humanness overrides the fact that it is borrowed.

NOTE: This example does not use the data from the project. You still have to include Gender 1/2 in your project.

List of words for you to classify:

/ati/ ‘same-sex sibling’

/kuti/ same-sex siblings

/adokoto:ra/ ‘doctor’ (< French)

/kudokoto:ra/ ‘doctors’

/bubak/ ‘baobab tree’

/ubak/ ‘baobab trees’

/butum/ ‘mouth’

/utum/ ‘mouths’

/bu:l/ ‘face’

/wu:l/ ‘faces’

/bubirik/ ‘acacia tree’

/ubirik/ ‘acacia trees’

/busiken/ ‘wooden mortar for crushing grain’

/usiken/ ‘mortars’

/bumanga/ ‘mango tree’

/umanga/ ‘mango trees’

/bu:l/ ‘nest’

/wu:l/ ‘nests’

/ebo:l/ ‘bowl’ (< French)

/sibo:l/ ‘bowls’

/e≠aru/ ‘monkey’

/si≠aru/ ‘monkeys’

/emo:n/ ‘trunk of the body’

/simo:n/ ‘trunks (of the body)’

/fumo:n/ ‘large tree trunk’

kumo:n/ ‘large tree trunks’

/fun´…n´/ ‘banana (fruit)’ (< French)

/kun´…n´/ ‘bananas’

/fujamara/ ‘rainy season’

/kujamara/ ‘rainy seasons’

/fujoj/ ‘assembly (of people)’

/kujoj/ ‘assemblies’

/fule:muna/ ‘lemon’ (< Portuguese)

/kule:muna/ ‘lemons’

/fal/ ‘large body of water’

/kal/ ‘large bodies of water’

/kal/ ‘stream’

/wal/ ‘streams’

/ka≠/ ‘item of clothing’

/wa≠/ ‘items of clothing’

/ka≠en/ ‘arm and hand’

/u≠en/ ‘arms and hands’

/kakamun/ ‘leg and foot’

/ukamun/ ‘legs and feet’

/jiliba/ ‘small knife’

/muliba/ ‘small knives’

/jirink/ ‘piece’

/murink/ ‘pieces’

/jisua/ ‘small bird’

/musua/ ‘small birds’

/jikil/ ‘eye’

/kukil/ ‘eyes’

/ju:l/ ‘a kind of palm tree’

/mu:l/ (plural of the same kind of palm tree)

/Esua/ ‘bird’

/sisua/ ‘birds’

  1. Indicate the prefixes and noun class of the following words. Explain why each word should appear in the noun class that it does.

    /basua/ ‘small group of birds’

    /Ebaj/ ‘to have’

    /kakontoN/ ‘to eat lunch’

Answer the following additional questions

  1. Based on the information above, what is the Jola word for ‘banana tree’?
  2. What do you think the word would be for a bunch of bananas?
  3. A Jola word for ‘boy’ (singular) is /akamba:ni/. What do you expect its plural to be?
  4. What do you expect the augmentatives of the singular and plural words for ‘boy’ to be?
  5. What do you expect would be the augmentatives of /Esua/ ‘bird’ and /sisua/ ‘birds’?
  6. What do you expect the augmentatives of /fufimbar/ ‘tomato’ and /kufimbar/ ‘tomatoes’ to be?
  7. What do you expect the diminutives of /fufimbar/ ‘tomato’ and /kufimbar/ ‘tomatoes’ to be?
  8. Imagine that Jola borrowed the word /burek/ from English break in the meaning of a short break from work, for example a ten-minute break from work. What are the three likely possibilities for which noun class this word would fall into? Explain each of your answers. i) What gender should /-b´k´n/ ‘indigenous (i.e. “not imported”) pail’ go into? Why?


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