The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 3/17 - Claire Halpert

Speaker: Claire Halpert
Title: Argument licensing in Zulu
Time: Thursday, March 17, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

Recent work on Bantu languages (e.g. Baker 2003, 2008; Carstens and Diercks to appear; Diercks to appear) has revived the notion that the Bantu family lacks abstract Case (Harford Perez 1985). In this talk, I address the issue of how arguments are licensed in Zulu by examining two types of constructions: raising constructions and constructions involving morphologically impoverished (“augmentless”) arguments. I show that Zulu has both raising-to-subject and raising-to-object out of agreeing finite CPs, which is empirically problematic for Case-driven analyses of raising, as well as for theories that link (subject) Case-licensing to agreement or EPP (e.g. Chomsky 2000; Bobaljik 2008; Boskovic 2002; Marantz 2000). While Carstens and Diercks (to appear) and Diercks (to appear) argue on the basis of similar data from other Bantu languages that Case is not active at all in Bantu, I use data on the distribution of augmentless arguments to argue that while T doesn’t assign Case in Zulu, we do find argument licensing effects associated with v. Augmentless arguments face a more limited distribution than their augmented counterparts in Zulu. I propose that the behavior of these augmentless arguments in raising-to-object and applicative constructions in particular stems from their need to receive structural case from v. Augmented arguments, in contrast, have inherent case and thus do not exhibit the same positional restrictions. Finally, I propose that we find additional evidence for v as a probe reflected in the “conjoint/disjoint” verbal morphology alternation, which is sensitive to the contents of vP (cf. Buell 2006).