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LINGUIST List 23.2226

Wed May 09 2012

Diss: Inuktitut/Morphology /Semantics /Syntax : Spreng: 'Viewpoint Aspect in Inuktitut: The syntax and semantics of antipassives'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

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Date: 08-May-2012
From: Bettina Spreng <bsprengchass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Viewpoint Aspect in Inuktitut: The syntax and semantics of antipassives
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Institution: University of Toronto
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Bettina Spreng

Dissertation Title: Viewpoint Aspect in Inuktitut: The syntax and semantics of antipassives

Dissertation URL: http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~bspreng/Thesis%20Viewpoint%20Aspect.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

Subject Language(s): Inuktitut, Eastern Canadian (ike)

Dissertation Director:
Alana Johns
Diane Massam
Elizabeth Cowper

Dissertation Abstract:

In many languages, antipassive morphology is comprised of aspectual
morphology (Polinsky 2008). This thesis presents an analysis of the syntax
and semantics of antipassives in Inuktitut by exploring the link between
aspectual morphology and antipassive morphology. It resolves the
longstanding question as to the factors governing the distribution of the
antipassive morpheme, showing that the presence of the antipassive morpheme
is determined by the meaning of the construction, i.e. it does not merely
change the grammatical function.

It is proposed that the antipassive construction has imperfective viewpoint
in contrast to the ergative construction. Antipassive morphology is
obligatory with punctual telic verbs, i.e. achievements, which are verbs
that have perfective viewpoint by default. Antipassive morphology is thus
necessary to convey imperfective viewpoint for verbs that are by default
perfective. Using a modified Reichenbachian (Reichenbach 1947) framework,
it is shown that imperfective viewpoint does not allow for telic
interpretations. Instead, punctuality determines the types of viewpoint,
which coincide with the aspectual meaning of the antipassive marker.

Viewpoint contrasts in Inuktitut are encoded not only in morphology but in
changes of case and agreement configurations. They are derived using a
version of the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 2008). Imperfective viewpoint
can either be default, in which case there is inherent case on the internal
argument, or derived through the addition of antipassive morphology, in
which case the construction closely parallels a nominative-accusative
structure. Perfective viewpoint is encoded through absolutive case on the
internal argument, either in an ergative construction or in a canonical
intransitive construction with unaccusative verbs.

The thesis provides insight into the relation between case-agreement
configurations and aspectual contrasts in language and the nature of those
aspectual contrasts. It also provides a new approach to the relation
between lexical aspect and viewpoint by considering the role of punctuality.

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