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LINGUIST List 21.2922

Wed Jul 14 2010

Diss: Morphology/Syntax: Nuger: 'Architecture of the Palauan Verbal...'

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        1.    Justin Nuger, Architecture of the Palauan Verbal Complex

Message 1: Architecture of the Palauan Verbal Complex
Date: 12-Jul-2010
From: Justin Nuger <!ju-st.in>
Subject: Architecture of the Palauan Verbal Complex
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Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Justin Nuger

Dissertation Title: Architecture of the Palauan Verbal Complex

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

Subject Language(s): Palauan (pau)

Language Family(ies): Austronesian

Dissertation Director(s):
Judith Aissen
Kie Ross Zuraw
Sandra Chung
James McCloskey

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation addresses two fundamental, difficult questions in linguistic
theory. The morphological question involves the formal status of verbs as
'words', while the syntactic question is concerned with how verb phrases are
constructed. Both questions arise in frameworks, including Distributed
Morphology and recent versions of Minimalism, in which the material that
constitutes a verb is distributed over multiple syntactic heads. To address
these questions, I develop a theory of the verbal complex of Palauan, an
Austronesian language spoken by approximately 15,000 people in the Republic of
Palau and elsewhere. The data covers new empirical domains and is drawn both
from my original fieldwork and from sources of naturally occurring data.

I begin by exploring the nature of grammatical relations in Palauan (subjects,
direct objects, and possessors), concluding that they are instantiated by the
operation Agree. The morphosyntax of accusative DPs also suggests that licensing
heads that trigger Agree may have other features bundled with them, like Tense,
Aspect, or Mood. Next, Palauan phrasal idioms reveal a locality restriction on
their subparts for which I propose a constraint that refers to linearized
strings. If the analysis is correct, Palauan idioms provide a new type of
evidence for a post-syntactic component of the grammar. Then, from one
morphologically uniform class of intransitive verbs and adjectives, I conclude
that there are three distinct syntactic subclasses - passive verbs, unaccusative
verbs, and stative adjectives. The result bears on the nature of the relations
between functional heads and their complements, which I take to be something
like feature-unification (rather than category-selection), Finally, the internal
structure of resultative adjective phrases suggests that Palauan words are
derived (at least partially) syntactically, where a syntactic head can merge
with a phrasal XP but form a morphophonological word with just a proper subpart
of that XP.

The overall picture that emerges is that while the (morpho)syntax of Palauan
appears initially baroque, it is not tremendously different from that of other
languages. Still, its sometimes unusual properties can help shed light on
long-standing questions about similar phenomena in better-studied languages.
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