The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch 4/12 -  Matthew Tyler (Yale) and Michelle Yuan (MIT)

Speaker: Matthew Tyler (Yale) and Michelle Yuan (MIT)
Title: Nominal-clitic case mismatches (WCCFL Practice Talk) 
Date and time: Thursday, April 12, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

When arguments are clitic-doubled, the clitic and the nominal it doubles typically bear the same case feature. However, recent theoretical work on clitic-doubling, including but not limited to so-called ‘Big DP’ analyses (e.g. Uriagereka 1995, Nevins 2011, Kramer 2014) treats clitics and nominals as separable entities in the syntactic derivation. Given this background, we propose that under the right syntactic conditions, nominals and their clitics should be able to mismatch in case features. In particular, we identify and investigate two classes of mismatch, which form the mirror image of each other. In Choctaw (Muskogean), nominals acquire case features that their associated clitics lack, while in Yimas (Lower-Sepik; data from Foley 1991), clitics acquire case features that their associated nominals lack. We argue that these mismatches are the consequence of case-assignment operations that target nominals or clitics individually.

The availability of such targeted case-assignment operations is contingent on the language creating the right syntactic configurations. In Choctaw, nominals may be individually targeted for a round of NOM/ACC case-assignment because clitics are doubled at a low position on the clausal spine—by the time that NOM/ACC case is assigned at TP, clitics have already separated from their nominal associates. And in Yimas, while nominals are morphologically unmarked (ABS), clitics may be individually targeted for a round of ERG/ABS case-assignment because they adjoin to the same functional head: following Yuan (2017), multiple clitics adjoined to the same head may employ case-assignment as a dissimilation strategy.