Aspects of Split Ergativity

ISBN : 9780199858736

Jessica Coon
288 Pages
154 x 234 mm
Pub date
Sep 2013
Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax
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In languages with aspect-based split ergativity, one portion of the grammar follows an ergative pattern, while another shows a "split." In this book, Jessica Coon argues that aspectual split ergativity does not mark a split in how case is assigned, but rather, a split in sentence structure. Specifically, the contexts in which we find the appearance of a nonergative pattern in an otherwise ergative language involve added structure - a disassociation 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. The book begins with an analysis of split person marking patterns in Chol, a Mayan language of southern Mexico. Here appearance of split ergativity follows naturally from the fact that the progressive and the imperfective morphemes are verbs, while the perfective morpheme is not. The fact that the nonperfective morphemes are verbs, combined with independent properties of Chol grammar, results in the appearance of a split. In aspectual splits, ergativity is always retained in the perfective aspect. This book further surveys aspectual splits in a variety of unrelated languages and offers an explanation for this universal directionality of split ergativity. Following Laka's (2006) proposal for Basque, Coon proposes 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, Coon proposes 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.


Chapter 1 Introduction
Part I Complementation in Chol
Chapter 2. Mayan background and clause structure
Chapter 3. Verbs and nouns in Chol
Chapter 4. Explaining split ergativity in Chol
Part II A theory of split ergativity
Chapter 5. Beyond Mayan
Chapter 6. The grammar of temporal relations
Chapter 7. Conclusion
Appendix A Abbreviations
Appendix B Narrative text abbreviations
Appendix C Summary of basic constructions

About the author: 

Jessica Coon completed her PhD in linguistics at MIT in 2010. After one year as a post-doc at Harvard, she joined the faculty at McGill University in 2011. Her work focuses on the morphology and syntax of under-documented languages. She has more than a decade of experience working on languages of the Mayan family.

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