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LINGUIST List 20.3621

Tue Oct 27 2009

Diss: Lang Documentation: McGill: 'Gender and Person Agreement in...'

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        1.    Stuart McGill, Gender and Person Agreement in Cicipu Discourse

Message 1: Gender and Person Agreement in Cicipu Discourse
Date: 26-Oct-2009
From: Stuart McGill <sm112soas.ac.uk>
Subject: Gender and Person Agreement in Cicipu Discourse
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Institution: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Stuart McGill

Dissertation Title: Gender and Person Agreement in Cicipu Discourse

Dissertation URL: http://www.cicipu.org/linguistics.html

Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation

Subject Language(s): Acipa, Western (awc)

Dissertation Director:
Peter K. Austin

Dissertation Abstract:

The Cicipu language (Kainji, Benue-Congo) of northwest Nigeria has the kind
of robust noun class system characteristic of Benue-Congo languages -
GENDER agreement is found on a great many agreement targets inside and
outside the noun phrase. For a number of these targets, gender agreement is
in competition with a separate paradigm, that of PERSON agreement. The
dissertation focuses on the distribution of this alternation with respect
to subject prefixes, object enclitics, and pronouns, based on a corpus of
12,000 clauses of spoken language.

The alternation proves to be complex to describe, involving a constellation
of lexical, phonological, morphosyntactic, semantic and discourse-pragmatic
factors. In particular, both animacy and topicality are CONDITIONS (Corbett
2006) on agreement.

While inanimate or animal participants normally trigger gender agreement,
if they are topics then they may trigger person agreement. Likewise while
human nouns typically trigger person agreement, this is not always the
case, and gender agreement is more likely if the referent is of incidental
importance to the discourse. Furthermore it is argued that this alternation
is sensitive to discourse topic (e.g. Dooley 2007) rather than
sentence topic (e.g. Lambrecht 1994).

Both gender and person subject prefixes are ambiguous agreement markers
according to the typology of Bresnan and Mchombo (1987) and Siewierska
(1999), since both can take part in grammatical or anaphoric agreement.
Thus the Cicipu data supports Culy's (2000) contention that topicality is
an independent dimension for the classification of agreement markers,
rather than derivative of the grammatical vs. anaphoric agreement
distinction, and leads us to re-evaluate the common assumption that
dependent person markers (Siewierska 2004) cannot vary with respect to
their discourse function.

Since Cicipu is otherwise undescribed, a major part of the dissertation
consists of a phonological and grammatical sketch.

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