Prefixes and infixes
Apertium was initially designed for languages in which word inflection manifests itself as changes in the suffix of words. For instance, in Spanish, cantar (to sing), cantarías (yo would sing), cantábamos (we sang), etc., all share a prefix cant-. Therefore, both Apertium's tagger and structural transfer assume that the lexical forms corresponding to these surface forms consists of a lemma (cantar) followed by a series of morphological symbols. For instance cantábamos would be
cantar.vblex.pii.p1.pl (cantar, lexical verb, imperfect indicative, 1st person, plural).
But in other languages inflection occurs as prefixes or infixes. For instance, in Swahili kitabu means book and vitabu means books, so a natural way to represent their lexical forms would be
pl.kitabu.n, or perhaps
pl.n.kitabu, natural meaning that in this way, morphemes in lexical forms would be in the same order as in surface forms, and one could use this to form paradigms (for instance, the same singular/plural forms are found in many other Swahili nouns: kisu/visu (knife), kijiko/vijiko (spoon), etc.
These are difficult to treat in Apertium as it is now, so if we want Apertium to be used for more languages, we need to modify the part-of-speech tagger and the transfer.
- One possible solution would be to see lexical forms as sets and not as sequences. e.g.
pl.kitabu.nwould be the same (swahili). A normalization would have to take place somewhere (for instance, to
kitabu.n.pl), but then the structural transfer module would have to be able to reorder these tags into the order expected by the morphological generator. Something similar to this is actually performed by the
pretransfer modulewhich normalizes split lemmas such as
- Another possibility is to generalize the part-of-speech tagger and the transfer to be able to detect and deal with lexical forms in which the lemma can be split or come in any position whatsoever. As before, the person writing the tagger definition or the structural transfer rules would be responsible of managing these correctly.