The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 11/21 - Stanislao Zompí (MIT)

Speaker: Stanislao Zompí
Title: *ABA in case morphology and what it may teach us
Date and time: Tuesday November 21, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

In this presentation, I try to lay out a comprehensive survey of *ABA effects in case morphology, with an emphasis on case syncretism, case-based wholesale suppletion, and case-based stem-formative allomorphy. Building on work by Baerman et al. (2005), McFadden (2017), and Smith et al. (2017), I claim that all three of these phenomena are constrained by the following universal: No Vocabulary-Insertion rule can apply to both an inherent case and an unmarked core case (nominative/absolutive) without also applying to another core case (accusative/ergative). The case hierarchy that such *ABA effects motivate is thus one where the ergative consistently occupies the same ‘middle field’ as the accusative, instead of patterning with inherent cases. This offers a new kind of argument against approaches that treat the ergative as just another inherent case, and it favors instead those case-assignment theories that do put ergative and accusative in the same box. Prominent among these is Marantz’s (1991) dependent-case theory, whereby accusative and ergative are both treated as dependent cases—i.e. assigned to nominals that stand in an asymmetric c-command relation to another as-yet-caseless nominal nearby (cf. also Yip et al. 1987). In this light, I reinterpret Marantz’s disjunctive case-assignment hierarchy as a proper containment hierarchy: [[[UNMARKED] DEPENDENT] INHERENT].