The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch 9/17 - Michelle Yuan

Speaker: Michelle Yuan (MIT)
Title: Dependent case and clitic dissimilation
Time: Thursday 9/17, 12:30-1:45pm
Place: 32-D461

In Yimas (Lower Sepik; Papua New Guinea), case and agreement are encoded on a series of optional preverbal clitics, which are doubled from arguments in the syntax. In this talk, I propose that the Yimas clitic system provides clear evidence for the dependent theory of case, as well as for the broader view that dependent case is fundamentally a subtype of featural dissimilation, which applies to avoid multiple morphosyntactically non-distinct objects (cf. Richards 2010, Baker 2015). The distributions of case in Yimas are exactly as predicted under a dependent theory of case assignment (Marantz 1991), though in Yimas it is determined jointly by the structural configuration of nominals and the clitic environment. I argue that dependent case assignment in Yimas prevents sequences of featurally identical clitics, and show how this follows from the logic of clitic doubling. This proposal is moreover supported by the existence of several other dissimilatory strategies applying on the clitics, which share the same endgoal; these other strategies are illustrated through modal clitic/AGR clitic interactions and case-sensitive participant dissimilation effects.