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LINGUIST List 23.3619

Wed Aug 29 2012

Diss: Eskimo/ Linguistic Theories/ Morphology/Semantics/ Syntax/Inuktitut, Eastern Canadian: Compton: 'The Syntax and Semantics of Modification in Inuktitut...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 29-Aug-2012
From: Richard Compton <richard.comptonutoronto.ca>
Subject: The Syntax and Semantics of Modification in Inuktitut: Adjectives and adverbs in a polysynthetic language
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Institution: University of Toronto
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Richard Compton

Dissertation Title: The Syntax and Semantics of Modification in Inuktitut: Adjectives and adverbs in a polysynthetic language

Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories

Subject Language(s): Inuktitut, Eastern Canadian (ike)
Language Family(ies): Eskimo

Dissertation Director:
Alana Johns
Diane Massam
Rose-Marie Déchaine
Michela Ippolito
María Cristina Cuervo

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis explores the properties of adjectives and adverbs in Inuit
(Eskimo-Aleut), with focus on the Inuktitut dialect group. While the
literature on Eskimoan languages has claimed that they lack these
categories, I present syntactic evidence for two classes of adjectives,
one verb-like and another strictly attributive, as well as a class of
adverbs. These categories are then employed to diagnose more
general properties of the language including headedness, word-
formation, adjunct licensing, and semantic composition.

In the first half of Chapter 2 I demonstrate that verb-like adjectives can
be differentiated from verbs insofar as only the former are compatible
with a particular copular construction involving modals. Similarly, verb-
like adjectives can combine with a negative marker that is incompatible
with genuine verbs. This contrast is further corroborated by an
inflectional distinction between verb-like adjectives and verbs in the
Siglitun dialect. A second class of strictly-attributive adjectives is
argued for on the basis of stacking, variable order, optionality, and
compositionality. The second half of the chapter examines semantic
restrictions on membership in the strictly-attributive class whereby only
adjectives with subsective and privative denotations are attested.
These restrictions are explained by the proposal that Inuit lacks a rule
of Predicate Modification, with the result that only adjectives with
semantic types capable of composing with nouns via Functional
Application can compose directly with nominals. Furthermore, to
explain why this restriction does not extend to verb-like adjectives it is
proposed that when these modify nominals, they are adjoined DP
appositives and compose via Potts's (2005) rule of Conventional
Implicature Application.

In Chapter 3 I argue for a class of adverbs, presenting evidence
including degree modification, variable ordering, speaker-oriented
meanings, and the ability to modify additional categories. Finally, data
from adverb ordering is used to compare syntactically oriented and
semantically oriented approaches to adjunct licensing and verbal-
complex formation. I present arguments in favour of a right-headed
analysis of Inuit in which the relative position of adverbs inside
polysynthetic verbal-complexes is primarily determined by semantics,
supporting Ernst (2002), contra cartographic approaches such as
Cinque (1999).

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