Syntax & Semantics Circle

University of California, Santa Cruz

spring 2017

May 12

Emily Clem (UC Berkeley): “Ergative case as agreement with multiple heads”

The mechanisms underlying ergative case assignment have long been debated, with two main view emerging in the literature: 1) ergative is an inherent case assigned by a transitive v to an agent, 2) ergative is a dependent case assigned to a DP that c-commands another DP within a case domain. In this talk, I present novel data from the Panoan language Amahuaca, in which ergative case is sensitive to the position of the transitive subject. The interaction of movement and morphological case assignment in Amahuaca cannot easily be captured by current inherent or dependent case theories. Ergative is not assigned in a theta-position, as predicted by an inherent case account, nor is it dependent on whether the subject and object DPs are in the same case domain, as predicted by a dependent case account. Instead, I argue for an account of ergative case as exponing Agree operations between a DP and two distinct functional heads, v and T. This approach is able to account for the Amahuaca data, while incorporating key insights from both inherent and dependent case theories of ergativity. I further demonstrate that this view that takes case to be the exponence of multiple features is able to be extended to account for elements of Amahuaca’s case-sensitive switch reference system as well as its focus-sensitive nominative marking. The Amahuaca data thus suggest that ergative case can be viewed as a feature bundle, rather than a single case feature, and that morphological ergative marking arises as the exponence of structural relationships between multiple heads and a nominal.

May 5

Ginny Dawson (UC Berkeley): “A new kind of epistemic indefinite”

In this talk I examine a series of epistemic indefinites — pronouns that convey speaker ignorance about the witness to the indefinite (Alonso-Ovalle & Menéndez-Benito 2015) — in Tiwa, a Tibeto–Burman language of India. These pronouns, formed from a wh-word base and the suffix –khi, take obligatory widest scope, freely range over a singleton domain, and can encode speaker ignorance with respect to any salient property of the witness. Further, the ignorance component is not a conversational implicature, but better analyzed as a presupposition. These features place Tiwa’s epistemic indefinites in contrast with those discussed in the literature (eg, Spanish algún (AO & MB 2010), German irgendein (Kratzer & Shimoyama 2002), and others), for which the ignorance effects appear to be an implicature that arises from their anti-singleton domain requirements, and are consequently limited in what sorts of ignorance they can convey. Instead, Tiwa’s –khi indefinites represent an entirely different sort of epistemic indefinite, that (i) are choice functional (deriving their widest scope), and (ii) carry presupposition of speaker ignorance about some salient property of the witness.

April 11

Andrés Salanova (University of Ottawa): “Frustratives and viewpoint”

(Joint work with Javier Carol)

Many languages in the world exhibit the category of the frustrative, which encodes that an expected outcome of an action did not come to be (Copley & Harley 2010, 2014, Kroeger 2016, Overall 2017). A closer inspection of the category reveals a cluster of related but distinct meanings. On the one hand there are those where the situation wasn’t initiated or completed (exs. 1a, 2a), while on the other there are those that indicate that the completed situation did not have the intended effects (exs. 1b, 2b). We call these type I and type II respectively.

(1) Chorote
(1) a. A-lej-ta ki i-‘yu‘…
(1) a. 1A-wash-FRUST D 1SG.POSS-clothes
(1) a. “I was washing my shirt…” [I didn‘t finish]
(1) a. “I was going to wash my shirt…” [I didn‘t wash it]
(1) a. “I was washing my shirt…” [I didn‘t finish]
(1) b. A-lej-a-ta ki i-‘yu‘, ¡t’ọjli’!
(1) b. 1A-wash-MOM-FRUST D 1SG.POSS-clothes 3.dirty
(1) b. “I washed my first, but it’s dirty!”

(2) Mẽbengokre
(2) a. Ba bit awỳr tẽ
(2) a. I FRUST go
(2) a. “I was going up to where you were” [I met you on the way, or gave up]
(2) b. Ba te awỳr tẽ
(1) b. I FRUST go
(2) a. “I was going up to where you were” [In vain; you were gone]

We claim that treating the two different senses as distinct categories (e.g., Overall, op. cit.) is inadequate from both an empirical and theoretical point of view. Empirically, many of the different senses overlap in the same morpheme cross-linguistically, or arise from interactions of a single morpheme with other categories (as is the case with the MOMentary morpheme in Chorote, and with prospective in Mẽbengokre). As far as theoretical adequacy goes, in this talk we propose that a single formalism can elegantly characterize the different attested meanings of the frustrative and draw parallels between them and modal-aspectual morphemes.

Type I frustratives resemble imperfectives in that in the latter the culmination is outside topic time, and no claim is made as to whether it is reached or not (cf. 3). Like in imperfectives, the frustrative can be used both when the situation has in fact begun, or when it is imminent, in a way that is determined to a great extent by the predicate’s Aktionsart. The salient difference between imperfectives and frustrative is simply that in the frustrative the claim that the culmination is not reached is explicitly made (i.e., 3b is excluded).

(3) I was reading your draft when I was called to work…
(3) a. …so I never finished reading it.
(3) b. …so I finished reading it the following day.

The fact that in type II frustratives (1b, 2b) the eventuality culminates apparently puts us in a hard place. We claim that the solution to this is implicit already in our discussion of type I frustratives, with the sole addition of distinguishing between different types of culmination.

An event can be conceived as a series of stages, represented in (4). Before their completion, it is not assured that any of these stages will come to pass, but, simplifying somewhat, the later stages are already implicit from the planning stage (if one understands consequences as intended or expected consequences). The relation among these various stages is modal, and based on the notion of inertia (cf. Arregui et al. 2014). In simplified form, the inertia situations of an actual situation are those where things continue as expected and the next stage of the event is reached. This notion has applications in the imperfective and in frustratives in the way shown in (5, 6).

(4) Planning → Development → Culmination → Consquences

(5) ⟦IMPF⟧ = λPs.∀sʹ : Mα(s)(sʹ) = 1.∃e.P(e)(sʹ) = 1
(6) ⟦FRUST⟧ = λPs.∃e.∀sʹ : Mα(s)(sʹ) = 1.P(e)(sʹ) = 1 ∧ P(e)(s) = 0
(6) Where Mα is modal base relating two situations inertially.

Given these semantics for the frustrative, we hypothesize that when languages have independent means of indicating the boundedness of the event, e.g., Chorote’s momentary morpheme, the two types of frustratives will be encoded by a single morpheme: i.e., Type II = culmination + non-continuation, hence absence of consequences, while Type I = non-culmination + non-continuation, hence interruption before culmination. Mẽbengokre exemplifies at the same time a case where frustrative morphemes pack information about culmination, and one where the aspectual morphology available is the opposite of culmination (e.g., prospective).

April 7

Nico Baier (UC Berkeley): “Unifying Anti-Agreement and Wh-Agreement”

Many languages exhibit anti-agreement (AA), an effect in which φ-agreement with an argument is disrupted when that argument is A̅-extracted (e.g. Ouhalla 1993). In this paper, I argue against the view that AA results from constraints against the extraction of certain arguments (Boeckx 2003; Schneider-Zioga 2007; Diercks 2010; Erlewine 2016). Instead, AA is a form of wh-agreement — dedicated agreement morphology that indexes extracted arguments (Chung and Georgopoulos 1988). The effect is the result of a φ-probe copying both φ- and wh-features from a goal. AA arises when partial or total impoverishment applies to the [φ + wh] feature bundle in the morphological component, blocking insertion of an otherwise appropriate, more highly specified agreement exponent.