Feature sets in Gitksan split-absolutive agreement
Clarissa Forbes
October 2020
 

This paper presents a study of a split absolutive-nominative agreement pattern in Gitksan (Tsimshianic) which co-occurs with ergative agreement. The split is conditioned on the basis of nominal type: alongside ergative agreement, a second type of agreement targets absolutives (S, O) when the subject is a participant or third-singular pronoun, or nominatives (S, A) when the subject is a full DP or third-plural pronoun. This results in what appears to be construction-dependent variation in the applicability of the Activity Condition, as some transitive subjects receive both ergative and nominative agreement. It is proposed that DP arguments and third-plural pronouns are able to receive multiple instances of agreement by virtue of bearing D-features; in contrast to the situation with typical pronouns, these D-features remain active for agreement even if prior ergative agreement has already deactivated the argument's phi-features. Both ergative and nominative agreement may target a single argument because different groups of features are targeted during the two operations. The D-feature property is ultimately linked to a structural DP/non-DP distinction amongst arguments, providing some insight into the role of D in pronominal systems. This analysis, which crucially relies on an approach to activity that explicitly allows incremental deactivation of an argument, accounts for the empirical facts in Gitksan more readily than a purely morphological approach or an approach that considers distinctions between phi-features alone.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004389
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
keywords: syntax, agreement, ergativity, tsimshianic, activity condition, pronouns, dp structure
previous versions: v2 [February 2020]
v1 [October 2018]
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