Mutual dependencies of nominal and clausal syntax in Ch'ol
Carol Rose Little
August 2020

This dissertation investigates nominal and clausal structure in Ch'ol, a Mayan language of southern Mexico. I take as an empirical basis the interpretation of bare nouns and extraction asymmetries in Ch'ol to argue for a base-generated account of verb-initial syntax. I propose that (in)definiteness is reflected structurally, demonstrating that only bare nominals within the VP may receive an indefinite interpretation. Any nominals generated or moved outside the VP must be definite or take wide scope. I capture this empirical generalization by linking semantic interpretation to syntactic structure. Data on elements that can or cannot be displaced from nominal expressions also bear on underlying syntactic structure. I argue that the islandhood of nominals provides evidence for whether they are contained in a moved constituent. When extraction of an element is possible, it is not in a movement-derived position—having implications for the underlying structure of verb-initial word order.  With these conclusions in mind, I support a syntax for VOS word order which is base-generated in Ch’ol. VSO is derived from VOS by moving the object. This analysis offers a straightforward account of the observed semantic properties of nominal arguments and extraction asymmetries. I model how a base-generated account of VOS is derived through linearization rules in the narrow syntax. The syntactic structure argued for here results in testable predictions about the semantic and syntactic properties of nominal arguments in other languages. I conclude that verb-initial languages do not constitute a uniform syntactic class, and further investigation into structural dependencies of nominal and clausal syntax can provide us with a window into the underlying similarities and differences across languages.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005371
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Cornell University
keywords: syntax, verb-initial, word order, object shift, left branch extraction, subextraction, mayan, semantics, (in)definiteness, noun incorporation, pseudo-noun incorporation
previous versions: v1 [August 2020]
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