A Two-Level Morphology of Malagasy

Mary Dalrymple and Lisa Mackie
Centre for Linguistics and Philology, Oxford University Walton Street, Oxford OX1 2HG UK

We present a two-level model of Malagasy nominal and verbal morphology, based primarily on the discussion of Malagasy morphology in Keenan and Polinsky (1998). Malagasy is an Austronesian language spoken by about six million people on the island of Madagascar. With Welsh, it is a focus of the Verb- Initial Grammars subproject within the PARGRAM initiative (http://users.ox.ac.uk/~cpgl0015/pargram/), a collaborative project to develop computational lexicons and grammars within the shared linguistic framework of Lexical Functional Grammar (Butt et al., 2002). Because of the complicated and productive patterns of Malagasy verbal and nominal morphology, the development of such a grammar relies heavily on a computational component for morphological analysis.

As Keenan and Polinsky (1998) note, there is very little inflectional morphology in Malagasy: there is no verb agreement or nominal inflection for agreement features, for example. Keenan and Polinsky analyze certain alternations in deictic forms and demonstratives as inflection, but since the forms involved form a small closed class, we treat these forms by listing them in the syntactic lexicon, and they do not undergo morphological analysis. In the context of developing a large-scale computational grammar, it is essential to provide a morphological analysis of the very productive patterns of nominal and verbal morphology, since it is impractical to list the hundreds of surface forms derived from each nominal and verbal root. We will describe our treatment of genitive compounding and suffixation for nouns, and various derivational processes involving compounding and affixation for verbs. We do not, at this time, include an analysis of reduplicative processes.

These phenomena are treated within the framework of two-level morphology and implemented using the Xerox finite-state tools LEXC and XFST (Beesley and Karttunen, 2003). Our treatment of affixal verbal morphology and genitive compounding consists of a lexicon written in LEXC and more general orthographic rules written in XFST.


Kenneth R. Beesley and Lauri Karttunen. 2003. Finite-State Morphology. CSLI Publications, Stanford, CA.

Miriam Butt, Helge Dyvik, Tracy Holloway King, Hiroshi Masuichi, and Christian Rohrer. 2002. The Parallel Grammar Project. In Proceedings of COLING-2002 Workshop on Grammar Engineering and Evaluation.


We are grateful for the financial support of the ESRC (research grant RES-000-23-0505) for this project.
Last modified: Mon Aug 15 10:18:03 EEST 2005