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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Morphosyntax and Processing of Number Marking in Yucatec Maya Add Dissertation
Author: Lindsay Butler Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Arizona, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2011
Linguistic Subfield(s): Linguistic Theories; Morphology; Psycholinguistics; Syntax;
Subject Language(s): Yucateco
Language Family(ies): Mayan
Director(s): Heidi Harley
Simin Karimi
Andrew Barss
Janet Nicol

Abstract: This dissertation is a theoretical and experimental investigation of number
marking in Yucatec Maya, a language in which number marking has different
properties than better known Indo-European languages with inflectional
plural marking and obligatory number agreement. The primary goal of this
thesis is to propose a formal syntactic analysis of plural marking in
Yucatec Maya in the nominal and verbal domains. I do this by examining the
distribution and interpretation of the plural morpheme and by proposing an
analysis within a Minimalist framework. The secondary goal is to
investigate how the formal representation of plural marking interacts with
real-time sentence processing mechanisms. I do this through timed
translation experiments (and a picture description experiment) with
bilingual speakers of Yucatec Maya and Spanish, two languages in which the
formal representation of number marking and agreement differs. These
experiments are tests of the formal syntactic analyses proposed in this
thesis, and they examine the effect of language-particular syntax on
sentence processing mechanisms.

In the nominal domain, I argue that the plural marker is adjoined to the
Determiner Phrase, rather than heading a Number Phrase, following the
syntax of plural marking proposed by Wiltschko (2008). It merges as an
adjunct to the DP, lacking the ability to change the label of the element
with which it merges. This analysis explains the distributional and
interpretational properties of plural marking as well as the otherwise
peculiar lack of morphosyntactic persistence in certain conditions in an
experimental translation task.

I also propose an analysis of plural marking in the verbal domain and its
relationship to word order. In verb-initial clauses, the aspect-mood
particle is the main predicate in T which is phi-deficient. There is no
Agree for number between the plural-marked full DP and verb due to the
absence of C (Chomsky 2008). For DP-initial clauses, a DP bearing plural
morphology moves to the CP domain, triggered by a topic or focus feature.
The uninterpretable number feature on C probes via T for an interpretable
valued feature in its domain (Chomsky 2001). This analysis predicts
asymmetric number agreement in Yucatec Maya, which is tested experimentally.