Dimensions of Ergativity in Inuit: Theory and Microvariation
Michelle Yuan
November 2018

This thesis investigates microvariation in the ergative system of the Inuit languages, with focus on the Eastern Canadian varieties of Inuktitut in which the ergative pattern has been observed to be relatively weaker than in other varieties (e.g. Johns, 2001, 2006; Carrier, 2017). The main empirical finding of this thesis is that variation in the status of ergativity within Inuit is systematically connected to variation in the underlying status of its object agreement morphology, i.e. whether this morphology reflects true phi-agreement or clitic doubling. I present a novel analysis of ergativity across Inuit that reduces this correlation to variation in case competition for dependent ERG case assignment. Thus, variation in the status of ergativity is entirely independent of the properties of ERG case morphology on the subject, which remain uniform across Inuit, but is rather tied to the properties of the ABS object. Beyond ergativity, the theoretical underpinnings of this proposal presents new insights into PF conditions on movement chains and the role of argument-licensing in Inuktitut. More broadly, this thesis offers a case study on how microvariation may be used as a lens into syntactic theory, and vice versa, by treating the Inuit varieties under discussion as minimally-differing points along an otherwise gradient system.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004168
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: MIT dissertation
keywords: syntax, morphosyntax, inuktitut, inuit, ergativity, pronouns, clitic doubling
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