Georgian is a member of the Kartvelian (South Caucasian) language family, spoken in the Republic of Georgia, formerly part of the U.S.S.R. The research will focus on certain synchronic and diachronic aspects of the structure of complex words in Georgian because some seem to pose a challenge to current theories of word structure. For example, although it is generally held that words do not contain conjunctions, units that appear to be words routinely do contain da 'and' in Georgian, such as oc-da-or-i [20-and-2-NOM] 'twenty-two'. Though it is accepted that in general phrases cannot form the basis of words, in Georgian units that have the characteristics of words can routinely be based on postpositional phrases, such as umlaut-amde-li [umlaut-until-ADJ-NOM] 'before umlaut (ADJ)', where the suffix -(e)l forms an adjective, from umlaut-amde 'until umlaut', headed by -amde 'until', which appears to be a postposition, not a case suffix. While it is generally accepted that words are anaphoric islands, in Georgian units such as u-sen-o '*you-less' are routine, where sen 'you (SG)' is a fully referential pronoun, and u--o is a circumfix (prefix-suffix combination).
This project is intended as a contribution to the description of synchronic and diachronic universals of language; the specific goals of the project are the detailed description of anaphoric islandhood, phrasal recursivity, and coordination inside words in Georgian; the description and explanation of the origins of circumfixes in Georgian and the Kartvelian languages; and the exploration of possible origins of apparent violations of the constraint on phrasal recursivity.
Research on synchronic phenomena will take place in the Republic of Georgia and will be conducted in Georgian through one-on-one consultations with native speakers. The primary research methods involve consultants reading aloud written Georgian words (for syllabification, stress, and other phonological phenomena) and sentences, together with consultants commenting on or correcting Georgian words, phrases, and sentences read aloud by the P.I. Research on diachronic phenomena will include close reading of Old Georgian texts and other comparative and historical documents, reading of materials in libraries in the Republic of Georgia, and discussion with colleagues there.
The significance of the project is not limited to the analysis and explanation of phenomena particular to Georgian; rather, these phenomena will be related to proposed universals of word structure. It is expected that the project will provide: testing of claims made in the recent literature on universal characteristics of the word; a study of the origins of circumfixes; and study of the origins of apparent phrasal recursivity.