Types of clitics in the world’s languages

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2785-0943/16057

Keywords:

clitic, affix, prosodic deficiency, word-class selectivity, object indexing

Abstract

This paper offers and discusses a simple definition of the term clitic from a comparative perspective: A clitic is a bound morph that is neither an affix nor a root. It gives examples of several semantic and positional types of clitics from a wide range of languages, and it discusses some typical phonological effects associated with clitics. In the proposed definition, the crucial contrast between affixes and clitics is that affixes are class-selective (occurring always on nouns, on verbs, or on adjectives), while clitics do not exhibit word-class selectivity. In the stereotypical view of clitics, they are “prosodically deficient” in some way, but the phonological effects are quite diverse and cannot serve as a basis for a definition. As clitics are defined as kinds of minimal forms (or morphs), they cannot be nonsegmental, and they cannot interrupt another minimal form (so that there cannot be endoclitics by definition). Finally, I note that the object person indexes of the Romance languages, which have very often been called clitics, are actually affixes in the modern languages, although they must go back to earlier clitics.

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2023-12-27

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Haspelmath M. Types of clitics in the world’s languages. LTC [Internet]. 2023 Dec. 27 [cited 2024 Jul. 20];3(2):1-59. Available from: https://typologyatcrossroads.unibo.it/article/view/16057

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