What umlaut tells us about the underlying morphological structure of verbs in Sinhala


  • Paula Fenger Leipzig University
  • Philipp Weisser Leipzig University


In this short paper, we investigate the morphophonological process of umlaut in Sinhala with a focus on verbal umlaut. The focus lies on an accurate description of the patterns of application and underapplication of the process in question. In other words: When does umlaut apply and when doesn’t it apply? As has been noted in the literature, umlaut itself seems to be triggered by an arbitrary morphological diacritic on specific affixes. What has gone unnoticed so far is the fact that the umlaut-triggers themselves fall into two classes: Strong umlaut-triggers and weak umlaut-triggers. We provide two diagnostics to distinguish these classes and then go on to argue that these two asymmetries are, on an abstract level, due to the same configuration, namely that weak triggers cannot trigger umlaut across a morpheme boundary while strong triggers can. In the final section, we then show that this generalization provides a strong argument for (i) the underlyingly concatenative nature of the verbal morphology of Sinhala and (ii) the necessity to refer to the notion of the morpheme.