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Open Access Affixes, Austronesian and iconicity in Malay

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Affixes, Austronesian and iconicity in Malay

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Explanations are offered for the puzzling differences between the forms and meanings of the Malay affixes and those of the broader Austronesian affixal system from which they derive. Oral-gesture iconicity is involved in the encoding of meanings that have both language-internal and social significance. The various verbal prefixes can be analysed both historically and iconically as different combinations of (1) a labial series (m , b , p ) indicating ‘source orientation’ with (2) r ‘iterative’ and (3) ( )N ‘process marker’. The full range of forms becomes apparent only if a sufficiently wide range of Malay and Malayic speech-varieties, both ancient and modern, are brought to bear on the discussion. The different meanings and functions associated with the various prefixes are motivated by the different semantic concerns engendered by the social and cultural circumstances peculiar to each of the speech-varieties.

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