The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 11/7 - Coppe van Urk

Speaker: Coppe van Urk
Title: A’-movement, case and “marked nominative” in Dinka
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov 7, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

“In this talk, I examine a type of ”marked nominative” system that is found in many African languages (e.g. Koenig 2006, 2008), and has the following two characteristics:

1. Non-initial subjects occur in a morphosyntactically marked case, which may be used for obliques elsewhere.
2. Initial subjects are in the unmarked case, used also for objects and in default contexts.

This is an unusual system, both because of the case alternation and because the subject case described in (1) is unlike ergative (it shows no sensitivity to properties of the verb) and unlike nominative (it can be used to mark obliques).

I study ”marked nominative” in Dinka (Nilotic; South Sudan) and argue that it arises when C, and not T, is responsible for licensing the subject. I propose that, as a result of this, A’-movement may interfere with structural licensing of the subject. In this situation, an adposition may be merged directly with the subject, so that it requires no outside licensing, following Halpert’s (2012) treatment of augment morphology in Zulu. The presence of this adposition causes the subject to be look like an oblique. I show that this analysis makes sense of the Dinka pattern, and the profile of such ”marked nominative” systems in a diverse set of languages (Koenig 2006, 2008; Dimmendaal 2007).”