The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Summer talk series: Rafael Abramovitz (5/28)

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)
Title: Deconstructing Inverse Case Attraction 
Time: Thursday, May 28, 12:30pm-2pm EST


In this talk, I will try to give a unified analysis of inverse case attraction (ICA), a phenomenon best known from a variety of extinct Indo-European languages whereby the head of a relative clause bears the case assigned to the relative pronoun inside the relative clause, rather than the case it would be assigned by the matrix verb. Pace pretty much everyone who has written about this, I will argue that relative clauses with ICA are in fact a kind of internally-headed relative clauses (rather than being externally-headed or correlatives), whereas relative clauses that do not display ICA are externally headed. The data will primarily drawn from Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan), though I will show that all of the other languages with ICA for which sufficient data exists (Ingrian Finnish, Bessermyan Udmurt, Moksha, Mari, Dari, etc.) pattern like Koryak in the relevant respects. Having proposed a syntax for ICA generally, I then point out that exactly this syntax has been defended by Hiraiwa and colleagues for so-called `left-headed internally-headed relative clauses’ in the Gur languages of West Africa (Buli, Dagaare, Kabiye, Moore etc.), which have no case-marking on noun phrases. ICA, I argue, falls out when a language has both overt case-marking and Gur-like relative clauses.