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Linguistic Society of America

Positional Analysis Author(s): Joseph E. Grimes Source: Language, Vol. 43, No. 2, Part 1 (Jun., 1967), pp. 437-444 Published by: Linguistic Society of America Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/411543 Accessed: 08/09/2010 12:26
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Summer Institute of Linguistics

A method is described which allows us to plot, easily and rapidly, the positional relations among linguistic elements which have fixed order relative to each other (such as affixes). The relationship of this method to connectivity matrices is dicussed, as well as the relation to Nida's and Hays's methods of positional analysis.

The methodology linguists use is of interest in its own right, regardless of how its results are managed in general linguistic theory. This paper presents a method for simplifying one task in linguistic field work that has proved difficult in enough languages to merit general discussion. Every language has elements whose position relative to other elements is completely determined. For these elements, order lacks distinctive value, since no choice can be made among orderings. Most such fixed-order elements are morphemes within words. Order also tends to be fixed in grammatical phrases, though not to the same extent as in words. As a rule, the higher the level of organization in the grammatical hierarchy of a language, the greater the latitude permitted the speaker in choosing among orderings. Fixed-order elements are important for field method because it is easy to analyze their positional relations. Getting positional relations straight is, of course, only part of the task of showing how elements function in a linguistic system; but positional analysis is a sensible early step in the grammatical analysis of an unknown language, because one can be certain that the position classes arrived at show some-even though not all-paradigmatic relations among elements. Each member of a position class is mutually exclusive in occurrence with every other member of that class, and may also be mutually exclusive with things not in the position class. Especially for languages that use long strings of elements in fixed order (the affix strings of Eskimo, Athapaskan, Uto-Aztecan, Quechua-Aymara, Panoan, and Finno-Ugric, to name a few), positional analysis helps the linguist bring complex data under initial control. The following discussion of positional analysis of fixed-order elements consists of three parts. The first gives a short-cut method for analyzing positional relations. The second part discusses connectivity matrices related to the shortcut method. The third part offers a critique of the methods proposed by Nida and Hays for positional analysis. The first part is immediately useful to the linguist; the other two may help him understand why it is useful.

Linguistic elements of fixed order can be assigned to position classes very simply by a process suggested by Frank S. Lister.' Data on ordering of elements
This method of handling data was suggested to me by Frank S. Lister while he was at437



are first displayed in a table like Table 1. Each entry in the table consists of a left part and a right part. The left part identifies a single element uniquely; in the case of the Huichol verb prefixes in Table 1, homophonous elements such as wal and wa2 (as well as other homophonous sets) are distinguished by subscripts.2 The right part of each entry is a list of elements that occur immediately after the element identified by the left part. Only elements that form the left part of some table entry can appear in the right part of an entry. Every entry has a right part even if it is null, containing no elements. In Table 1 the right part of the entry for stem is null. The right part of the entry for r is (a, e, stem, u). Table entries can be listed in any order, and the elements in the right part of an entry can be listed in any order. The entries in Table 1 are listed alphabetically for convenience. Lister's method is this: Find in the table all entries with null right parts. Give these entries the position number 1. Then go through all the right parts in the table and delete from them every element to which an order number has been assigned. Repeat the process as many times as necessary, using a higher position number each time. When the process is finished, all right parts will be null and all left parts will have some position number assigned to them. In Table 1, the element STEM has a null right part.3 It is assigned a position number, and stem is then deleted from all right parts. This leaves the right parts of ka3,ku, ta3,ti2, and ye null. They are therefore assigned the next position number and deleted from the right parts. Table 2 shows that state of the display. Rather than work out the rest of the system here step by step, I suggest that the reader do it himself. He should arrive at an assignment of 42 linguistic elements into 16 position classes in about five minutes. It is characteristic of affix systems that some elements may span two or more position classes. In the Huichol data, for example, mA, hA, and zAka all occur after the position class of nel, pe, ... and before ka2. But ne1 and its congeners are separated by two position classes from ka2, as in nel-kal-pA-ka2-ye-mie 'perhaps I shall go away'. mA, nA, and zAka thus span the positions of both ka1 and pA. Plotting both predecessors and successors shows up elements like these; their distribution is worth noting and is easily recoverable from a bidirectional plot. The picture of positional relations is therefore not complete until a table like Table 1 is made up, in which the right parts of each entry show the predecessors of the element identified rather than its successors.4
in England in September of 1964. I have modified his process in order to bring it into the framework of the rest of the discussion, but full credit for the idea belongs to Lister. It is presented here with his permission. The discussion of matrices that are generally ordered, divisible, and compact is partly based on a paper I read before the 1964Summer Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in Bloomington, Indiana. 2 The Huichol material used for illustration also appears in Grimes 1964:22, Table 1. The organization of data given there was arrived at by a combination of Nida's method (1949: 205-7) and hunch; the tediousness of the process motivated the present study. 3 Both prefixes and suffixes can be included in the same table. Table 1 ends with stem to save space. 4 Lowell Hawkinson has written a program in the LISP programminglanguage which not only applies Lister's method to a table like Table 1, but which then produces a predecessor table from the original succesor table and processes it as well. The cooperation of the Centro

Coursesponsored the SummerInstitute of Linguistics by tendingthe WycliffeLanguage



a ?a
?aci e ?e

(?a,kaa,ku,na,nea,nu,stem,ta2,tas,ti2,u,wa2,ye,yu) (kaa,ku,stem,ta3,ti2,ye)
(a,e,i,ka1 ,ka2,ka3,ke,ku,ma,mA,ne1,ne2,pe,pA,r,stem,ta ye,yu,ze ,ze2,ZAka) (?a,i,kaa,ku,na,ne:,nu,stem,ta2,ta:,ti2,u,wa2,ye,yu) (a,e,i,kal ,ka2,kas,ke,ku,ma,MA~,elne PAr,te ,nen2ni,pe, we,ye,yu,zei ,ze2,zAka) ,tas,tetii,ti2,u,wal,wa2,we,

,tal,t3,e,til ,ti2,U,wal,wa2,,

?eci i ka1 ka2 ka3 ke ku ma mA


,ti2,U,W9i,wa2, (a,e,i,kal ,ka2,ka3,ke,ku,ma,mA,ne1,ne2,ni,pe,pA,r,stem,tal,tas,te,ti we,ye,yu,zei,ze2,ZAka) (kaa,ku,stem,ta:,ti2,wa2,ye) (ka2,ma,ne2,ni,pA,ta1,,ti1) (a,?a,e,i,ka3,ku,ma,ne2,nea,ni,r,stem,tai,ta2,ta,ti ,ti2,u,wa1,wa2,ye,yu,ze2) (stem) (a,?a,e,i,kas,ku,ma,ne2,ni,stem,ta1,tas,til,ti2,u,waa,wa2,ye,yu,ze2) (stem) (a,e,kas,ku,ni,r,stem,ta,,til,ti2,u,wa2,ye) (a,?a,e,i,ka2,kas,ku,ma,ne2,nes,ni,r,stem ,tai,ta2,tas,tii,ti2,u,wal ,wa2,ye,yu,ze2) (?a,ka3,ku,ne3,stem,ta2,tas,ti2,ye,yu)

ne2 nes

(a,e,i,ka1,ka2,kas,ke,ku,ma,mA,ne:,ni ,pA,r,stem,ta1,ta:,til,ti2,u,wai,wa2,ye,ze2, zAka)

(a,e,kaa,ku,ni,r,stem,tas,til,ti?,u,wa2,ye) (kas,ku,stem,tas,ti2,ye)

ni fu

(a,?a,e,i,kag,ku,nes,stem,ta2,ta,,ti2,u,wal,wa2,ye,yu, ze2) (?a,kas,ku,nes,stem,ta2,tas,ti2,ye,yu)



(a,?a,e,i,ka1,kas2,kas,ke,ku,maA,ne2,ni,nA,pA,r,stem,ta ZAka)
(ay?a,e,i,ka2ykasykulma,nee2,ne,rpstem ta ,ta2,tas,til

,ta,til,ti2,u,waI ,wa2,ye,ze2,

,ti2,U,Wal ,wa2,Ye,yuze2)n

(a,e,kaa,ku,ni,r,stem,ta,,til,ti2,u,wa2,ye) (ka3,ku,stem,tas,ti2,ye) (stem) (a,e,i,ka1,ka2,kas,ke ,ku,ma,MA,ne2,ii,pA,stem,ta2,tas,tii,ti2,U,wal,wa2,ye,ze2,ZAka) (a,?a,e,i,kas,ku,ne3,ni,stem,ta2,tat,ti2,u,wa1 ,wa2,ye,yu,ze2) (stem) (?a,kaa,ku,nes,stem,ta2,tas,ti2,ye,yu) (a,e,i,kal ,ka2,kas,ke,ku,ma,mA,ne1 ,ne2,ni,pe,pA,r,Stem,tal,taa,te,til,ti2,u,wai,wa2, we,ye,yu,zea,ze2,ZAka) wai (ka8,ku,r,stem,tas,ti2,wa2,ye) wa2 (?a,kas,ku,ne3,stem,ta2,tas,ti2,ye,yu) we (a,e,i,kal ,ka2,ka8,ke,ku,ma,nmA,ne2,ni,pA,stem,ta ,tas,til ,ti2,u,wal,wa2,ye,yu,ze2, ZAka) ya (a,e,i,kal ,kaa,ka:,ke,ku,ma,MA,nei,ne2,ni,pe,pA,r,stem,tal,ta3,te,tii,ti2,U,Wa ,wa2,we, ye,yu,zei,ze2,zAka) (stem) ye yu (ka3,ku,stem,ta,,ti2,ye) zel (a,e,i,ka1,ka2,kas,ke,ku,ma,mUAne2,ri,pA,stem,tal,ta3,til,ti2,U,wa1,wa2,ye,yu,zAka) Ze2 (a,e,ka,,ku,r,stem,tas,ti2,u,wa2,ye) ZAka (a,e,i,kas,ku,ma ,ne2,r,stem,ta1,ltas,tii,ti2,u,walwa2,ye,yu) Inconsistent data will stop Lister's process at the point of inconsistency. table contains a cycle If a

r stem ta, ta2 tas te ti1 ti2 u ?u


Nacional de CAIculoof the Instituto Po1it6cnico Nacional de M6xico is gratefully acknowledged.




2 (1967)

TABLE 2. H-UICIZOLVERB PREFIXES, PARTLY ANALYZED AS TO POSITION a (?a,na,ne3,nu,ta2,u,wa2,yu) (a,e,i,kal ,ka2,ke,ma ,mA,ne, ,ne2,p'e,pA,r,tal,te,ti (?a,i,na,ne,,nu,ta2,u,wa2,yu) (a,e ,i ,ka1,ka2,ke,ma,mA ,ne1 ,ne2,ni,pe,pA,r,tai ,u,wa1 ,wa2,we,yu,zel ,ze2,ZAka)

?aci e ?eci

,te,til ,u,wal ,wa2,we,yu,zei



(wa2) (ka2,ma,ne2,ni,pA,taj,tij)
(a,?a,e,i ma ,ne2,ne3,ni, r ta ,ta2,til -u,waj ,wa2,yu,ze2)

ka3 ke 2 ku ma
mA na ne,

(a,?a,e,i,ma ,ne2,ni,ta1 ,ti, ,u,wai,wa2,yu,ze2) (a,e,ni,r,ti ,u,wa2)

(a,?a,e,i,ka2,ma,ne,,ne3,ni,r,ta1 ,ta2,til,u,wal ,wa2,yu,ze2) (?a,ne,,ta,,Yu) (a,e,i,kal ,ka2,ke,ma,nA,ne3,ni,pA,r,ta1 ,tii,u,waa ,wa2,ze2,ZAka)

ne2 nea ni
nu nIA pe

(a,e,ni,r,ti, ,u,wa2)

(?a,ne3,ta2,yu) (ka2) (a,?a,e,i,ka1 ,ka2,ke,mA,ne2,ni,nA,pA,r,tal l ,ta2,til,u,wal (a,?a,e,i,ka2,maa,ne2,ne3,r,ta (a,e,u)

,til ,u,wal ,wa2,ze2,ZAka) ,wa2,YU,ze2) ,uz%

1 stem ta, ta 2 tas



0 0




2 ti6 u ?U wa, wa2 we ya



(?a,nes,ta2,yu) , wa2,we,yu,zej,ze2,ZAka)a ,te,til,u,wai (a,e,i kaj,ka2,ke Ima,Kl,neel,ne2,ni,pe,PA,r,tal (r,wa2) (?a,ne,,ta2,yu) ,wa2yu,ze2,zAka) (a,e,i,kai ,ka2,ke,ma,mDA,ne,e,ni,pA ,ta1,til,u,wal ,ne2,ni,pe,pA,r,tai,te,tii,u,wa1,wa2,we,yu,ze,ze2,ZAka) (a,e,i,ka, ,ka2,ke,ma,mA,ne1

2 ye yu
zei ze2 ZAka (a ,e,i,ka1 ,ka2,ke ,ma,mA,ne2,ni,pA,taj (a,e,r,u,waQ) (a,e,i ,ma,ne2,r,tal ,til,u,wal,wa2,yu) ,tij,u,waj ,wa2,yu, ZAka)

a (..b
b (..a


there will be one pass through the table in which no entry has a null right part, so that further progress is impossible. If under-differentiated homophones are to blame, they must be taken care of before analysis can proceed. If, on the other hand, the elements being analyzed are not strictly fixed in order, so that alternative orderings are possible, Lister's method can still be used by choosing one of the possible orderings arbitrarily, plotting the positional relations for that ordering, then revising the plot to allow room for the alternative orderings.



Lister's-method can also be applied to a connectivity matrix of the linguistic elements. Such a matrix is Boolean (consisting only of TRUE and FALSE values, or l's and O's) and square (same number of rows as columns). In a connectivity matrix, each element labels a row and a column, and the cells of the matrix containa 1 (or TRUE) if the element that labels the row is followed by the element that labels the column, 0 (or FALSE) otherwise. Table 3 is the connectivity matrix that corresponds to Table 1. To apply Lister's method to a connectivity matrix, first find all rows that contain no ones. Give these rows the position number 1. Then go through all columns of the matrix, and change ones to zeros in all columns that correspond to rows to which a position number has been assigned. Repeat the process as many times as necessary, using a higher position number each time. When the process is finished, the matrix will consist of zeros, and all rows will have some position number assigned to them. The transpose of the original matrix about the main diagonal is also a display of all predecessor relations. If the matrix is inconsistent, there will be one pass in which no row lacks ones, so that further progress is impossible.6 Lister's method is actually a short cut for displaying a property of connectivity matrices that is useful in the analysis of levels in complex structures. The sequential multiplication of a connectivity matrix by the original matrix gives the connectivity matrix for each level in turn :6
CL+ =


where C1 = C. It is possible to arrange the sequence of row and column labels so that a connectivity matrix shows position classes without sequential multiplication or its equivalent. In order to do this, row labels and column labels must always be listed in the same sequence. Then, if all ones are above the main diagonal, the
labels are GENERALLY ORDERED; no element is listed after any element that fol-

lows it (or before any that precedes it, if the list goes the other way). The sequence of labels is DIVISIBLE if all ones in the matrix are inside division sub6 Application of Lister's method to a connectivity matrix is embodied in a computer program I have written in FORTRAN at the Centro de CAlculoElectr6nico of the Universidad Nacional Aut6noma de M6xico, for whose provision of machine time I wish to express gratitude. It is characteristic of Lister's method, however, that the analysis can be performed by hand in roughly the time it takes to get the material ready for input to either this program or to Hawkinson's LISP program. Working a matrix both ways by Lister's method is facilitated so by simply marking the ONESthat are to be considered ZEROS, as not to lose

them, rather than actually changing them to zeros. Then when the matrix has been processed in one direction, it can be turned 90? and reprocessed to get the ordering in the other direction; turning the matrix is equivalent in this case to transposing it. 6 Connectivity matrices must be distinguished both from ordinary algebraic matrices and from the non-numericmatrix-like displays of intersecting contrastive systems developed by Kenneth L. Pike, in which the values of cells are linguistic forms (e.g., Pike 1963). Connectivity matrices are discussed in Dzubak and Warburton 1965, and in the references cited there. Formal proof that Lister's method is equivalent to sequential multiplication is outside the scope of this paper.





? c

kkk aaakkmm
i 123euaA

I -

aai a


n nn t t t t nee e nnn pp eaaa uA e Arm 1 23 a123i 1001010 0000000 0110000 1001010 0110100 0110100 0000000 0010100 0011100 0000000 0010100 0000000 0000100 0011100 0001000 0001100 0000100 0000000 0001000 0001000 0000000 0010101 0011000 0000000 0000000 0000100 0000000 0000000 0010100 0001100 0000000 0001000 0110100 0000000 0001000 0010100 0110100 0000000 0000000 0010100 0000000 0010000 0001 0001 1111 0001 1111 1111 0001 0100100 0011111 0001000 0001101 0001000 0011001 0011111 0001011 0111101 0011001 0001001 0001011 0001011 0000000 011 001 101 011 101 101 001

t t



tii ?aa wyyye e k e 1 2uu1 2 e a e u 1 2 a 0011001 0010000 1111011 0011001 1111011 1111011 0010001 0100000 0111011 0000000 0111011 0000000 0111001 0111011 0010000 0111011 0111001 0010000 0011011 0010000 0000000 0011000 0010000 1011111 0011000 1011111 1011111 0010000 0000000 0011010 0000000 0011010 0000000 0010000 0011010 0011000 0010011 0010000 0010000 0011010 0011000 0000000 0010011 0011010 0000000 0000000 0010000 0010000 0000000 0010011 0011010 0000000 0011000 1011111 0010000 0011000 0011011 1011111 0000000 0010000 0011001 0010000 0011000

e ?e

?eci i ka1 ka2 ka, ke ku ma


0100000 0000000 1001001 0100001 1001001 1001001 0000000 0000000 1101001 0000000 1101001 0000000 1001000

0010100 0010100 1111111 0010100 1111111 1111111 0010100 0100010 0010110 0000000 0010110 0000000 0010100 0110110 0010100 1111111 0010100 0010100 0010100 0010100 0100000 1111101 0110110 0000000 0000000 0010100 0010100 0000000 1111111 0010100 0000000 0010100 1111111 0010100 0010100 1111111 1111111 0000000 0010100 1111111 0010100 0010110

na ne ne2 nea ni nu
na pe pA

0100000 1001001 1001000 0000000 1101001 0100000

0000000 1101001 1101001

r stem tal

1001000 0000000 1001000


tas te til ti2


0000000 1001001 1101001 0000000


0111101 0111011 0011111 0111011 0001000 0001000 0000000 0000000 0011001 0111001 0010000 0001001 00010000000000 0101011 0001011 0001000 0001011 1111101 0011001 0001011 0101101 1111101 0001000 0001001 0101101 0011001 0011101 0111011 0011011 0000000 0010000 1111011 0010001 0010000 0111011 1111011 0000000 0010000 0111011 0011001 0111011

?u wal wa2 we ya ye yu zei ze2 zAka

1001001 0000000 0100000 1001001 1001001 0000000 0000000 1001001 1001000 100 1001

matrices; it is possible to specify where one position class listing leaves off and the

next begins. A proper division sub-matrix has a one just off the main diagonal, and consists of all cells above and to the right of that cell: Ci,i+i = 1, and for all Cm,. in the division sub-matrix m < i and n _ i + 1. The ith row is the last of



the position's listing. Finally, if every row contains a one that is in the unique part of some division sub-matrix-the part that is not overlapped by any other division sub-matrix-then the sequence of labels is COMPACT; no member of one position class is included with members of another position class. Rows that consist entirely of zeros must fall outside all division sub-matrices in order for the listing to be compact.7

Methods for positional analysis proposed up to now require that some point in the system be designated as a reference point from which the analytical process can begin. Data collected for analysis by these methods must therefore be collected with the reference point in mind. Reference point information is, however, redundant; the connectivity matrix approach requires only information on sequences. Most American linguists are familiar with Nida's three pages (cf. fn. 2) on 'Determining the relative order of morphemes'. For each element two kinds of information are required: (1) the maximum number of positions away from some reference position at which the element has been observed (for affixes, Nida suggests counting positions out from the stem); and (2) the list of elements that have been observed adjacent to the element under consideration on the side away from the reference position. The maximum absolute distance from the reference position serves as a first approximation to the position of the element in a system of relative orders. Final positional classification cannot leave it any closer to the reference point than it has actually been observed to occur, and may leave it farther from the reference point. By repeated adjustment of orders over all elements, the original observation of absolute distance is changed into a classification of relative order. Nida's method works, but is very difficult to apply by hand without getting lost. What is more, to make the analysis bidirectional, two sets of observations made with regard to two reference points are necessary. For example, if the first application of Nida's method counts the maximum distance of a prefix from the stem, the second must count the maximum distance of the same prefix from the beginning of the word. David G. Hays's work on dependency classes (1962, 1964) has yielded, as a by-product, another method of positional analysis.8 Hays also requires a reference point at the beginning or end of the sequence of elements to be analyzed. For each element, one list is made of all other elements that can come between it and the reference point, and a second list is made of all other elements that occur
7 Cf. Grimes 1966. The University of Oklahoma Computer Laboratory provided valuable assistance in the form of computing time for working out aspects of the non-multiplicative (permutational) approach. Mathematical analysis of this approach should include an examination of the covert implication that any matrix that can be generally ordered can also be permuted into divisible and compact form. Furthermore, since each valid connectivity matrix contains at least one zero row, a matrix that is generally ordered, divisible, and compact can probably be shown to be equivalent to a series of Lister transformations by induction. 8 I am indebted to Hays for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper.



farther than it from the reference point. A value of 1 is assigned to those elements for which the list of intervening elements is empty; a value of 2 is assigned to those elements for which the list of intervening elements consists only of elements to which the value of 1 has already been assigned, and so forth. The list of elements that occur on the side away from the reference point is more important for plotting dependency connections than for positional analysis in Hays's formulation, but can serve as the basis for a simple transformation to permit bidirectional analysis. Like Nida's method, Hays's method works but is unnecessarily complicated in that a reference point has to be taken into account. If the reference point is eliminated, Hays's method bears a strong resemblance to Lister's. REFERENCES
B. DZUBAK, J., and C. R. WARBURTON.1965. The organization of structured files. Com-

Hague,Mouton. --.1966. Metodologia parael antlisis de sistemasde prefijosen Huicholy Cora.Actas (Espafia,1964), y memoriasdel XXXVI CongresoInternacionalde Americanistas 2.217-20. Sevilla. ference on Machine Translation of Languages and Applied Language Analysis, 2.577-92. London,Her Majesty'sStationeryOffice. --. 1964. Dependencytheory: a formalismand some observations. 40.511-25. Lg.
NIDA, EUGENEA. 1949. Morphology: the descriptive analysis of words. 2nd ed. Ann L. PIKE, KENNETH 1963. Theoretical implications of matrix permutation in Fore (New HAYS,DAVIDG. 1962. On the value of dependency connection. 1961. International Con-

E. JOSEPH 1964. Huichol syntax. (Janua linguarum, series practica, 11.) The GRIMES,

8:7.446-52. for municationsof the ACM [Association ComputingMachinery]

Arbor,Universityof MichiganPress.

Linguistics5:8.1-23. Guinea).Anthropological