The Athabaskan verb can stand alone as a proposition; it is capable of denoting an event. The role of the verbal morphology is to provide the means for this task. It does so with a rich lexicon of grammatical, inflectional and adverbial morphemes and agreement markers, a structure that supports the interpretation of these morphemes, and a word formation system that allows the verb to be constructed in maximally simple and productive ways. The structure of the Athabaskan verb has been under discussion for over one hundred years. Morice’s (1932) grammar of Carrier (Dakelh) observed that, despite the complexity of the morphology, the verbs were made up of two core parts, a verb part and a tense and subject part. Sapir established a slot-and-filler template to describe the ordering of the verbal morphemes, versions of which are in common use today. But he also observed that investigation of the verbal morphology would likely prove the verb to be considerably more ‘analytic’ than his complex template indicated; he suggested the verb word fell apart easily and would prove to be made up of ‘little verbs’ (Sapir 1925).
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