Exponent (linguistics)

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An exponent is a phonological manifestation of a morphosyntactic property. In non-technical language, it is the expression of one or more grammatical properties by sound. There are several kinds of exponents:

  • identity
  • affixation
  • reduplication
  • internal modification

Contents

Identity

The identity exponent is both simple and common: it has no phonological manifestation at all.

English example:
DEER + PLURAL → deer

Affixation

Affixation is the addition of a prefix, suffix or infix to a word.

English example:
WANT + PAST → wanted

Reduplication

Reduplication is the repetition of part of a word.

Sanskrit Example:
DA ('give') + PRESENT + ACTIVE + INDICATIVE + FIRST PERSON + SINGULARdadaami (the da at the beginning is from reduplication, a characteristic of class 3 verbs in Sanskrit)

Internal modification

There are several types of internal modification. An internal modification may be segmental, meaning it changes a sound in the root.

English example:
STINK + PAST = stank (i becomes a)

An internal modification might be a suprasegmental modification. An example would be a change in pitch.

A slightly controversial exponent is subtraction, in which a sound or group of sounds is removed. Some people don't think this happens.

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