Case decomposition meets dependent-case theories
Stanislao Zompi'
September 2017

In this (slightly revised version of my) MA thesis, I try to lay out a comprehensive survey of *ABA effects in case morphology, with an emphasis on case syncretism, case-based wholesale suppletion, and case-based stem-formative allomorphy. All three of these phenomena, I claim, are universally constrained by the following generalization: No Vocabulary-Insertion rule can apply both to an unmarked core-case (nominative or absolutive) and to an inherent case (dative, instrumental, locative, etc.) without also applying to a dependent core-case (ergative or accusative). This generalization traces back to work by Baerman et al. (2005) and Caha (2009) on syncretism, by McFadden (2014) on stem allomorphy, and by Smith et al. (2016) on suppletion. However, most of these works, albeit largely consistent with each other, invoke some or other distinctive qualification or supplementation to the general pattern. Here I argue, in contrast, that such divergences are not empirically warranted, and that the match between the patterns of the three phenomena is indeed perfect or nearly so. This argument rests, most notably, on a critique of Caha’s (2009) proposals concerning several other supposed *ABA universals in syncretisms with or among inherent cases. Next, drawing again on Caha (2009), I interpret the *ABA patterns referenced above as evidence for a containment hierarchy [[[UNMARKED] DEPENDENT] INHERENT]. I then observe that the lightest cases in this containment hierarchy, i.e. nominative and absolutive, are also the same cases that are given “elsewhere” status in Marantz’ (1991) configurational theory of case assignment. This suggests that there may be a structural economy principle at work, whereby additional case layers such as those of dependent and inherent cases may only be deployed when the lighter unmarked cases are, in a sense to be made precise, “not enough.”
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003421
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: MA thesis, University of Pisa
keywords: *aba, dependent case, syncretism, suppletion, case hierarchy, distinctness, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v1 [March 2017]
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