The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MIT Colloquium 10/27 - Mark Baker (Rutgers)

Speaker: Mark Baker (Rutgers)
Title: Allocutive Agreement and Indexical Shift in Magahi: A Wedge into the Ghostly Operators at the Clausal Edge
Time: Friday, October 27th, 3:30-5pm
Place: 32-155
In this talk I focus on the phenomenon of allocutive agreement in Magahi, an Indo-Aryan language of North Eastern India, and how it interacts with indexical shift.  Allocutive agreement is known to occur in a fairly small set of languages (Basque, Japanese, Tamil, …) in which the finite verb varies in form depending on who the sentence is addressed to.  Like previous researchers, I argue that there is a syntactic representation of the addressee (“Hr”) in the periphery of the clause which can be the goal of an Agree operation.  More specifically, I claim that allocutive agreement in Magahi happens then finite V+T moves (optionally) from T to Fin, where it gains access to Hr.  Unlike other languages, allocutive agreement in Magahi can happen in a wide range of embedded clauses. Interesting in itself, this also makes it possible to study the interaction between allocutive agreement and the phenomenon of indexical shift: using pronouns like “I” and “you” in embedded clauses to refer to the subject and object of the matrix clause.  I show that indexical pronouns in Magahi shift if and only if allocutive agreement shifts. I use this to develop an analysis in which “Hr” (and similarly “Sp”, a representation of the speaker) is the vehicle of indexical shift—not a sui generis nonnominal context shifting operator, as in most previous analyses of indexical shift.  More specifically, indexical shift happens in the special case where the “Hr” of an embedded clause is controlled by the goal argument of a higher clause rather than by the “Hr” of the higher clause, and then binds a second person pronoun in the embedded clause.  This brings the analysis of indexical shift more in line with how logophoric pronouns have been analyzed in West African languages in the tradition of Koopman and Sportiche 1989 (contrary to the distinction drawn between the two by Deal (2017)).  I give further support to the syntactic control-and-binding style analysis of indexical shift by showing that the antecedent of a shifted first person pronoun needs to be not just the semantic author of the content of the embedded clause, but the syntactic subject of the matrix clause in both Magahi and Sakha—parallel to logophoric phenomena and complementizer agreement in Niger-Congo languages.