A Construction Morphology Approach to Yoruba Numerals

  • Matthew Ayobami Ajibade Indiana University Bloomington
Keywords: Construction Morphology, Constructional Schema, Numerical Constructions, Numerals, Yoruba, Allomorphy


This paper provides a form-meaning account of Yoruba numerals, demonstrating how they can be analyzed with morphological schemas, as developed in Booij (2010). The discussions on Yoruba numerals, described as one of the most complicated numeral systems of the world (Hurford1975), have centered on the array of arithmetic operations involved in their computation. This complex computation results in phonological variations for some numbers in isolation and when such numbers are stems for the derivation of complex numerals, thereby constituting a challenge to the identification of numerical meanings from phonological forms. In a more recent approach to the analysis of complex words, Geert Booij, through a series of works (Booij 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2018) developed Construction Morphology (CxM) to provide a systematic pair of linguistic forms and meanings of complex words. This approach uses constructional schema to account for the holistic properties of complex words and how existing templates can be used to create new words (Booij 2010, 2018; Jackendoff2022). Following the CxM approach, this paper, through a systematic examination of each group of numerals with a similar arithmetic operation, shows that numbers with similar mathematical operations have feature commonalities that set them apart from other groups of numerals. These commonalities show how Yoruba users make form-meaning representations of numbers that are represented with different allomorphs, whether phonologically governed or idiosyncratic. The paper concludes that presenting holistic properties of Yoruba numerals through constructional schemas shows a direct way to identify their mathematical properties from phonological forms.

Keywords: Construction Morphology, Schema, Numerals, Allomorphy, Yoruba