The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 12/3 - Yusuke Imanishi

Speaker: Yusuke Imanishi
Title: Default ergative: A story of Ixil
Date/Time: Tuesday, Dec 3, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

I will discuss the unexpected emergence of the ergative in intransitive clauses of Ixil (Mayan). This occurs when an instrumental phrase is fronted to a clause-initial position (Ayres 1983, 1991; Yasugi 2012). I will argue that the intransitive subject receives ergative Case as syntactic default Case because it would be otherwise Case-less. It will be shown that a fronted instrumental phrase blocks the assignment of absolutive Case to the intransitive subject. In other words, the unexpected instance of the ergative indicates failure of absolutive Case assignment. To formulate this analysis, I will propose (i) a model of default ergative Case assignment and (ii) the Absolutive Case Parameter in Mayan (cf. Aldridge 2004, 2008; Legate 2008; Coon et al. 2012).