The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 11/30 - Michelle Yuan (MIT)

Speaker: Michelle Yuan (MIT)
Title: Anaphors and antipassives in Inuktitut
Date and time: Thursday, November 30th, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

The Anaphor Agreement Effect (AAE) refers to the cross-linguistic (possibly universal) inability for anaphors to be cross-referenced with co-varying phi-agreement (Rizzi 1990, et seq.). In this talk, I investigate the AAE in Inuktitut (Inuit; Eskimo-Aleut) as a window into its antipassive construction and clause structure more generally. It has been claimed that the Inuit languages avoid phi-agreement with anaphoric objects by resorting to the antipassive construction, which demotes the object to an oblique (Woolford 1999; Sundaresan 2015). However, a closer look reveals that the interaction of anaphors and antipassives in Inuktitut is both more nuanced and more complex than previously assumed.

Despite surfacing with identical case morphology, I argue that anaphors enter the derivation with inherent case, while true (non-anaphoric) antipassive objects receive structural Case (building on Spreng 2006, 2012). Thus, Inuktitut obviates the AAE by enclosing its anaphors in a PP layer, not by antipassivization. Evidence for this distinction comes from the possibility of case stacking on anaphors (not otherwise possible in Inuktitut), as well as from the parallel behaviour of phi-agreement and verbal antipassive morphology in anaphoric contexts. I also explore the wider implications of this analysis for Inuktitut clause structure and argument licensing.