The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

First LingLunch of Fall/2016 - Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine

  • Speaker: Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (National University of Singapore)
  • Title: ‘C-T head-splitting: Evidence from Toba Batak’
  • Date and time: September 8 (Thursday), 12:30pm-1:50pm
  • Location: 32-D461
I present new work on extraction and voice in Toba Batak, an Austronesian language of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Recent work has proposed a tight coupling between the traditional heads of C and T. I argue that patterns of multiple extraction in Toba Batak support the C-T head-splitting hypothesis—the idea that C and T begin as a single CT head and can split (Martinović, 2015). Although Batak has been previously described as only allowing extraction of one constituent at a time (Cole & Hermon 2008), I show that the simultaneous extraction of two constituents is possible, in very limited combinations. Exactly two patterns are possible: two DPs which are both formally focused (wh or with ‘only’) or a focused non-DP followed by a non-focused DP. I propose that C and T first try to probe together (as CT) for the joint satisfaction of their probes (focus and D features); if this fails, CT splits into C and T, which probe separately. This hypothesis is supported by the distribution of the particle na in two internally-consistent ideolects, which provides overt morphological support for the CT head-splitting view. I also discuss lessons for the analysis of Austronesian voice systems.