Size matters: Deriving person hierarchies from nominal structure
Will Oxford
February 2017

Existing work has sought to explain the Algonquian person hierarchy (SAP>X>3>3'>0) in terms of the geometry of person features. This paper identifies problems for the feature-geometric approach and proposes that the hierarchy instead reflects the structural size of the nominal categories: first and second persons are PhiP, impersonal X is DefP, proximate third persons are DP, and obviative third persons are KP. Each successive layer of nominal structure makes the person features in PhiP less accessible to an external agreement probe. The person hierarchy thus reduces to an effect of minimality: the hierarchy is simply a statement of the amount of nominal structure that intervenes between a probe and the person features in PhiP. This approach does away with the need for stipulated feature geometries and ties the person hierarchy directly to the well-established phrasal syntax of nominals.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004534
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Unpublished manuscript (first draft). Comments welcome.
keywords: person hierarchies, nominal structure, agreement, inverse marking, minimality, algonquian, meskwaki, morphology, syntax
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