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Split intransitivity in Ranmo / Jenny Soyeon Lee
Bib ID 7730177
Format MicroformMicroform, BookBook [text, microfiche]
Lee, Jenny Soyeon, author
Description Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2016 
237 p. 
ISBN 9780355029161

This dissertation brings novel data from Ranmo, an endangered Papuan language, to bear on the phenomenon of split intransitivity, the comparatively understudied type of split ergativity (cf. aspectual and person-based splits). Ranmo is spoken by approximately 300 people in Western Province, Papua New Guinea and belongs to the Morehead-Upper Maro River family. The point of departure for this dissertation is the observation that there are two classes of semantically one-place verbs, unaccusatives and middles, which show distinct patterns of agreement|an apparent case of split intransitivity. I demonstrate, however, that this "split" is only an illusion: middles, which show a non-ergative pattern of agreement (i.e., S=A), are in fact syntactically transitive, having an NP (as opposed to φP) object that is coindexed with and bound by the φP external argument.

This NP object requires a corresponding functional projection on the clausal spine, XP, which is sandwiched between VP and nuP; this is essentially a new proposal for pseudo-noun incorporation (PNI) (cf. Massam 2001). Under this analysis, middle verbs---a semantically heterogeneous class encompassing reflexives/reciprocals, anticausatives, and agentives---are subsumed under PNI. When nu probes, it cannot agree with the NP object (since it lacks φ-features), resulting in the default spell out of object agreement, which is referred to as the 'middle' morpheme; this is an instance of agreement failure in the sense of Preminger (2009, 2011, 2014). No special rules of agreement are required to capture the non-ergative pattern of agreement in Ranmo; therefore, it is entirely ergative rather than split-ergative.

This is a significant conclusion especially in light of recent findings showing that aspectual and NP-based splits, too, are epiphenomenal, involving additional clausal structure in the non-ergative portions (Coon 2010, Coon and Preminger 2012). I further propose that applicative constructions form the "other side of the PNI coin," i.e., their direct object is also an NP, which requires the presence of a clausal correspondent, XP. I argue that the Person-Case Constraint (Bonet 1991, 1994) is evidence for the PNI analysis of applicatives, i.e., only 3rd-person arguments, which are structurally reduced compared to 1st/2nd-person arguments, are licensed in the NP direct object position of applicatives.

It is simply that in applicatives, X has the additional function of introducing an applied argument in its specifier and assigning it a theta-role and inherent case. Another major contribution of this dissertation is that it presents new evidence for the dependent theory of case assignment (Bittner & Hale 1996, Marantz 1991). On this view, case is assigned configurationally on the basis of the c-command relationships between noun phrases themselves; it is an alternative to the standard Chomskyan view that case is assigned as a reflex of agreement/Agree (Chomsky 2000, 2001). From both middle clauses and unaccusative applicative constructions in Ranmo, we have evidence of dependent case assignment: an argument receives ergative case only if it c-commands another noun phrase in the same domain. This also argues against the analysis of Ranmo ergative as inherent case assigned to agents by transitive nu/Voice.

New data like those of Ranmo urge us to adopt a more nuanced, perhaps parameterized, view of case/agreement relationship, i.e., whether case is assigned as a reflex of agreement/Agree is a point of cross-linguistic variation, not a universal absolute.


Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 78-12(E), Section: A.

Advisors: Maria Polinsky Committee members: Isabelle Charnavel.


Subjects Linguistics.
Other authors/contributors Harvard University. Linguistics. degree granting institution


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