The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 12/3 - Suzana Fong (MIT)

Speaker: Suzana Fong (MIT)
Title: The syntactic distribution of bare nominals in Wolof
Time: Tuesday, December 3rd, 1pm – 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: In this research in progress, I try to analyze the positions where a bare nominal (BN) in Wolof (Niger-Congo) can or cannot occur. An example of BN in the object position of a transitive verb can be found in (1).

(1) Roxaya jang-na xibaar. Roxaya read-NA.3SG newspaper ‘Roxaya read a newspaper.’

So far, the following generalizations have emerged:

(2) i. A BN can be the object of a transitive verb, but it has to be adjacent to that verb. ii. There are clauses where another lower argument can be introduced, namely, a causee, an applied argument, or a dative argument. In that case, a BN can be the theme argument, but it no longer obeys the aforementioned adjacency condition. iii. BNs cannot be the other lower argument (i.e. causee, anapplied argument, or a dative argument), irrespective of adjacency with the verb. iv. BNs cannot be the subject of a finite clause. v. BNs can be the subject of a nonfinite clause (more precisely, a bare perceptual complement). vi. BNs can be focused/clefted. vi. A BN direct object that is modified by a relative clause can bleed the adjacency requirement. However it still cannot be the subject of a finite clause.

(2-ii) and (2-vi) are strikingly similar to a pattern that Branan (to appear) analyzes in Kikuyu. This presentation will be an exercise in applying Branan’s (to appear) proposal to Wolof BNs. I will introduced auxiliary ingredients as needed.