The Tagalog project is lead by Dr. Samantha Wray (Dartmouth College).
Tagalog is an Austronesian/Malayo-Polynesian language, and features a typological feature not present in other previously studied languages in neuro- and psycho-linguistics: grammatical focus (also known as Austronesian alignment) which marks semantic role. For example, a verb which takes a single agent argument is marked with Agent voice, whereas a verb whose main argument occupies a thematic relation such as participant is marked with Object/Patient voice. Nouns are inflected for focus and number. Verbs, however, utilize a much richer inflectional and derivational system, that includes both affixation in the form of infixes, circumfixes, suffixes, and prefixes, as well as reduplication.Verbs are marked for focus, and aspect, with perfective verbs marked with prefixes and infixes, and imperfective and contemplative verbs indicated using reduplication and prefixes. For example, the verb root halo ‘mix’ is marked for Agent-focus perfective with the prefix nag- in naghalo ‘(s.o.) mixed’, and for Agent-focus imperfective with the prefix nag- + partial reduplication in naghahalo ‘mixes’. The same root may be marked for Object/Patient-focus + perfective with the infix -in- to create hinalo ‘(it was) mixed’. Furthermore, reduplication can be used to derive nouns from verbs, as in halo-halo ‘a mixed dessert’. Wray et al (submitted) is the only neurolinguistic work on Tagalog as far as the authors are aware. Existing psycholinguistic work focuses exclusively on sentence-level processing (Pizarro-Guevara & Wagers 2016), including for children (Garcia et al. 2018a, b), and in the production domain (Sauppe 2017, Sauppeet al. 2013, Segalowitz & Galang 1978).
We have so far identified one affix which places a semantic restriction on the kind of verb it can attach to. Tagalog verbs must be marked for Focus, which indicates syntactic-semantic role. The verbal infix -in- requires that the verb it attaches to be Patient/object focus marked, as in tinawag ‘was called’ from tawag ‘to call s.o.’. Attaching the same verb to an Agent focus compatible -um- results in tumawag ‘s.o. called’. Some verbs semantically are only compatible with one focus: for example, affixing the Patient/object focus -in- to a verb like sikat ’to become famous’ results in the ungrammatical *sinikat (compare the grammatical sumikat ‘became famous’ with the Agent focus compatible -um-). In previous work (Wray et al, submitted), we found that Tagalog infixed words evoked an opposite direction morphological form complexity response (the correlation between stem:whole word transition probability and evoked M170 activation) to the pattern we see for other affixes in Tagalog and other languages. Additional affixes will be developed in collaboration with QMUL PhD student Dave Cayado.