Linguistics and English Language

Meaning and grammar seminar

Speaker: Iris Kamil (University of Edinburgh)

Title: From Middle-marker to “Event-relator” – The Akkadian t-Morpheme

Abstract: The Semitic -t-morpheme, attested in all Semitic languages, is traditionally described as a de-transitive (or Middle) and can denote passives, middles, and anticausatives. Languages differ in terms of the functional distribution of the morpheme, with not all languages featuring all three de-transitive functions.

Akkadian, an East Semitic language attested from about 2700 BCE to 79 CE in Mesopotamia, not only preserved/developed all three functions, but also innovated more. The t­-morpheme, when attached to the perfective, can denote a “relation” to a preceding or following event within a discourse section. In other words, we can observe a diachronic development from an argument-structure alternating morpheme to one that meddles with event-structure.

To explain this development, I suggest the same morphosemantic encoding for the Middle-t and “Aspect”-t, which I tentatively set at [+relation]: When Merged within the vP-shell, the morpheme will alter the relation of an argument to its verb. It will then work on the level of argument structure. When Merged with AspP, the morpheme will alter or create a relation to a neighbouring event within the discourse section it is expressed in. It will then work on the level of event structure.

This talk will outline the synchronic functions of the t-morpheme in Old Babylonian Akkadian (ca. 2000-1500 BCE) and attempt to explain how it came to be reanalysed to a discourse particle through its morphosemantic encoding and morphosyntactic behaviour.


Seminars are organised by the meaning and grammar research group.

Meaning and grammar research group

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Nov 28 2023 -

Meaning and grammar seminar

2023-11-28: From Middle-marker to “Event-relator” – The Akkadian t-Morpheme

Room SR6, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD