Adverbs and variability in Kaqchikel Agent Focus: A reply to Erlewine (2016)

Robert Henderson, Jessica Coon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

In many languages with ergative morphology, transitive subjects (i.e. ergatives) are unable to undergo A’-extraction. This extraction asymmetry is a common hallmark of “syntactic ergativity,” and is found in a range of typologically diverse languages (see e.g. Deal 2016; Polinsky 2017, and works cited there). In Kaqchikel, the A’-extraction of transitive subjects requires a special verb form, known in Mayanist literature as Agent Focus (AF). In a recent paper, Erlewine (2016) argues that the restriction on A’-extracting transitive subjects in Kaqchikel is the result of an Anti-Locality effect: transitive subjects are not permitted to extract because they are too close to C0. This analysis relies crucially on Erlewine’s proposal that transitive subjects undergo movement to Spec,IP while intransitive subjects remain low. For Erlewine, this derives the fact that transitive (ergative) subjects, but not intransitive (absolutive) subjects are subject to extraction restrictions. Furthermore, it makes the strong prediction that phrasal material intervening between IP and CP should obviate the need for AF in clauses with subject extraction. In this paper, we argue against the Anti-Locality analysis of ergative A’-extraction restrictions along two lines. First, we raise concerns with the proposal that transitive, but not intransitive subjects, move to Spec,IP. Our second, and main goal, is to show that there is variation in whether AF is observed in configurations with intervening phrasal material, with a primary focus on intervening adverbs. We propose an alternative account for the variation in whether AF is observed in the presence of adverbs and discuss consequences for accounts of ergative extraction asymmetries more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-173
Number of pages25
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Keywords

  • Adverbs
  • Agent Focus
  • Agreement
  • Anti-Locality
  • A’-extraction
  • Ergativity
  • Kaqchikel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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