The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 11/26 - Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz
Title: Successive-Cyclic Wh-Movement Feeds Case Competition in Koryak
Date and time: Monday 11/26, 5-6pm
Location: 32-D831

Recent debate surrounding theories of ergative case has centered on two types of analyses: ergative as a dependent (configurational) case (Yip et. al. 1987, Marantz 1991, Baker 2015, a.o.), and ergative as an inherent case (Nash 1996, Woolford 1997, a.o.). On the former, ergative case is assigned to the external argument of a transitive verb by case competition: it `competes’ for case assignment with another nominal in the same phase, and is assigned ergative because it is the higher of the two. On the latter, ergative is assigned to the external argument of a transitive verb by being merged as the specifier of an agentive vP. In this paper, I present new evidence for the configurational analysis of ergative case from Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan), showing that movement of absolutive wh-words into higher case domains triggers dependent case in the higher domain, as well as in intermediate domains along the movement path. This is easily accounted for on the dependent case analysis, but cannot be captured if ergative marking is tied to thematic roles, as the inherent case view holds.