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That is, the parts always occur together, in fixed order and have a conventionalised coherence and meaning. What makes fieldwork on a polysynthetic language demanding is that one has to quote a complete word (which can be dauntingly long) whenever one wants to discuss its form or function or meaning; it is not acceptable to quote just one part of a word. There have been few in-depth studies of the unit word in polysynthetic languages, but we can air a few preliminary impressions. Firstly, one is rather more likely than in a synthetic language to find a grammatical word consisting of a number of phonological words.

This shows that bulayi is a separate grammatical word, the adjective ‘two’, while -jarran is a nominal suffix, with dual meaning. ) Concerning criterion (b), it is in fact sometimes possible for affixes to occur in alternative ordering within a word, but there must then be a difference in meaning – that is, a change in (b) affects (c), the coherence and meaning of the word. Matthews (1991: 213) provides a nifty pair of examples from English: nation-al-is(e)-ation and sens(e)-ation-al-ise (these examples are further discussed at (5–6) below).

Ii) If a morphophoneme A is the last segment of a phonological word, it is omitted; otherwise it is realised as a. We can compare what happens to gajarrA with zero suffix (for absolutive case) and with suffix -gu (for purposive case). (1) underlying form gajarrA gajarrAgu rule (i) gaja:rrA – rule (ii) gaja:rr gajarragu A root plus monosyllabic suffix (such as purposive -gu) forms one phonological word. But a disyllabic suffix always commences a separate phonological word. ’ for a phonological word boundary within a grammatical word).

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