The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, February 7th, 2022

Syntax Square 2/8 - Norvin Richards (MIT)

Speaker: Norvin Richards (MIT)
Title: Bans on extraction of ergatives
Time: Tuesday, February 8th, 1pm - 2pm

Abstract: A number of ergative languages ban A-bar extraction, or at least certain kinds of A-bar extraction, of ergative nominals (some Mayan languages, Kalaalisut (West Greenlandic), Chukchi, etc.). This will be a new attempt to derive this effect and its distribution.

We will probably only get through the first part, which will be about languages which ban both wh-movement and relativization of ergatives, and will crucially invoke the idea of Affix Support from Contiguity Theory. We will see that when ergative languages have morphology indicating transitivity, Contiguity Theory allows us to predict whether ergative extraction will be possible from the nature of the transitivity morphology.

The second part of the talk, which we will surely not get to, will be about languages that specifically ban relativization of ergatives. I’ll argue that this kind of ban is about a particular kind of relative clause—again, a kind whose properties can be diagnosed from its morphology.