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LINGUIST List 21.2977

Mon Jul 19 2010

Diss: Syntax: Coon: 'Complementation in Chol (Mayan): A Theory of ...'

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        1.    Jessica Coon, Complementation in Chol (Mayan): A Theory of split ergativity

Message 1: Complementation in Chol (Mayan): A Theory of split ergativity
Date: 16-Jul-2010
From: Jessica Coon <jessica.coongmail.com>
Subject: Complementation in Chol (Mayan): A Theory of split ergativity
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Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program: Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Jessica L Coon

Dissertation Title: Complementation in Chol (Mayan): A Theory of split
ergativity

Dissertation URL: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/fwsomtSHafmUiWFn/gCXjyFPr?16

Linguistic Field(s): Syntax

Subject Language(s): Chol, Tila (cti)

Language Family(ies): Mayan


Dissertation Director(s):
Norvin Richards
Sabine Iatridou
David Pesetsky

Dissertation Abstract:

The central claim of this dissertation is that aspect-based split ergativity
does not mark a split in how Case is assigned, but rather, a split in sentence
structure. Speci?cally, I argue that the contexts in which we ?nd the appearance
of a nonergative pattern in an otherwise ergative language - namely, the
nonperfective aspects - involve an intransitive aspectual matrix verb and a
subordinated lexical verb. In other words, the nonperfective forms show a
dissociation between the syntactic predicate and the stem carrying the lexical
verb stem. This proposal builds on the proposal of Basque split ergativity in
Laka (2006), and extends it to other languages. I begin with an analysis of
split person marking patterns in Chol, a Mayan language of southern Mexico. I
argue that the appearance of split ergativity in the language follows naturally
from the fact that the progressive and the imperfective morphemes are verbs,
while the perfective
morpheme is not. Ergative-patterning perfective constructions are thus
monoclausal, while progressives and imperfectives involve an aspectual matrix
verb and a nominalized embedded clause. The fact that the nonperfective
morphemes are verbs, combined with independent properties of Chol grammar,
results in the appearance of a split. Next, after focusing on Chol, I survey
aspect splits in a variety of unrelated languages and offer an explanation for
the following universal: in a language with an aspectual split, the perfective
aspect will always retain an ergative pattern (Dixon, 1979). Following Laka's
(2006) proposal for Basque, I suggest that the cross-linguistic tendency for
imperfective aspects to pattern with locative constructions is responsible for
the biclausality which causes the appearance of a nonergative pattern. Building
on Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria's (2000) prepositional account of
spatiotemporal relations, I propose that the perfective is never periphrastic
(and thus never involves a split) because there is no preposition in natural
language that correctly captures the relation of the assertion time to the event
time denoted by the perfective aspect; instead, perfective is the default
aspect. The proposal here thus accounts both for the appearance of aspect-based
split ergativity without the need for special rules of Case assignment, and also
provides an explanation for why we find the splits in certain aspects and not
others.
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