The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 12/6 - Yusuke Imanishi

Speaker: Yusuke Imanishi (MIT)
Date/Time: December 6 (Thu), 12:30-1:45p
Place: 32-D461
Title: Parameterizing (non-)split ergativity in Mayan


Recent studies (Coon 2010, Mateo Pedro 2009, 2011) have shown that a split ergative pattern in Mayan languages such as Chol and Q’anjob’al is bi-clausal by taking the form of nominalization. Under these analyses the split ergativity in these languages derives from a particular agreement paradigm in Mayan: genitive = ergative.

These studies leave open an interesting question why other Mayan languages like Kaqchikel do not exhibit split ergativity the way that Chol and Q’anjob’al do (Mateo Pedro and Imanishi 2012).

In this preliminary talk, I address this question and attempt to propose a parametric analysis of the variation in Mayan regarding (non-)split ergativity. The languages I look at include Kaqchikel/Tzutujil/Q’eqchi’ (non-split ergative languages) and Chol/Q’anjob’al (split-ergative languages).

I focus on the independent property of a non-verbal predicate (NVP) in the languages hinted at by Coon et al. (2011): whether an NVP in a given language has the ability to raise the subject. I then argue for the generalization
(i) If an NVP in a given language does not raise the subject, the language displays (Chol/Q’anjob’al-type) split ergativity.
(ii) If an NVP in a given language raises the subject, the language does not display (Chok/Q’anjob’al-type) split ergativity.

I further address some exceptions to the generalization.