The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 3/8 - Michelle Yuan (UCSD)

Speaker: Michelle Yuan (UCSD)
Title: Deriving VSO in San Juan Piñas Mixtec (and some puzzles along the way)
Time: Tuesday, March 8th, 1pm – 2pm

Abstract: (in collaboration with Gabriela Caballero and Claudia Juárez Chávez)

In this talk, I present in-progress research on the syntax of San Juan Piñas Mixtec (Tò’ōn Ndā’ví, though henceforth SJPM here), a previously undocumented variety of Mixtec spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico and in diaspora communities in California. This work is part of a larger collaborative project documenting and analyzing SJPM, as well as developing linguistic resources to be used for language reclamation purposes.

Like other languages of the Oto-Manguean language family, SJPM displays VSO word order; in SJPM, VOS may arise in very limited contexts (e.g. there is no pseudo noun incorporation that I am aware of). As such, SJPM is useful in evaluating approaches to verb-initiality cross-linguistically. I demonstrate that verb-initial word order in SJPM does not involve V0-movement (contra Macaulay 2005 and Ostrove 2020 on other Mixtec varieties)—rather, it is derived by object-stranding VP-movement. I then evaluate how the object comes to be “stranded” in VP-raising VSO configurations. Since Massam (2001), a common approach is to derive VSO from object shift followed by remnant movement of the VP (see also Lee 2006, Medeiros 2013, Collins 2017, a.o.). However, many recent proposals have instead sought to derive VSO/VOS without remnant movement, instead drawing on the prosodic status of different object types (Clemens 2014, 2019, Clemens & Coon 2018, Richards 2016, van Urk to appear). I argue that the prosodic approach is untenable for SJPM, and provide some evidence for the object shift/remnant movement approach, though residual issues still remain.