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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: Case, Agreement and Word Order: Issues in the syntax and acquisition of Tamil Add Dissertation
Author: Vaijayanthi Sarma Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Completed in: 1999
Linguistic Subfield(s): Psycholinguistics; Syntax;
Subject Language(s): Tamil
Director(s): Noam Chomsky
Kenneth Hale

Abstract: This dissertation focuses on the syntax of Tamil, a Dravidian language. The main issues discussed in the dissertation may be broadly classified into (a) those concerning the TP-internal structure and (b) those concerning the TP-external structure. The aim is to provide as complete an account as possible of the syntactic issues under consideration in both adult syntax and developmental syntax.

With respect to the TP-internal structure, the case and agreement properties in the syntax of Tamil are indicated in a wide variety of constructions, including finite (nominative and dative subjects, imperatives) and non-finite (verbal participles, infinitivals) sentences, and the theoretical processes necessary for the assignment of case and the determining of verb agreement are established. Evidence is given for the TP-internal positions of the various argument DPs including diagnostic tests for subjects and (especially, nominative) objects. Agreement facts and the relations between DPs and V are discussed with special emphasis on nominative object and V agreement and (null case) PRO and V without agreement. Anaphoric binding is shown to be parasitic on the agreement domain. The discussion is completed with an analysis of the auxiliary system, arguing for head movement of the V and an iterative vP structure.

The TP-external structure concerns the re-ordering of phrasal constituents, locally and long-distance. It is shown that Tamil is a configurational language which exhibits long-distance and local extraction to A-bar positions, targeting the same sites as independent clefting and topicalization procedures in the language. Consequently, word order changes are shown to have specific syntactic and semantic consequences. It is also argued that Tamil shows symmetric rightward and leftward extraction procedures.

It is established from the syntactic analysis and natural speech data that developmental syntax approximates adult syntax in all aspects. Children acquiring Tamil are shown to make productive and extensive use of case and agreement (including default agreement) forms. Additional evidence, to show that the entire range of TP-internal and TP-external processes are in place, is drawn from the use of pro, imperatives, non-finite verbs (including verbal participles and infinitivals), reflexives and serial verbs and the occurrence of NP-extraction and case-drop phenomena. The syntactic structuring and processes are argued to be identical in both grammars.