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Oxford Handbook of Ergativity is published!

The Oxford Handbook of Ergativity

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Louisa Bielig’s BA thesis on Chuj topic constructions

Louisa Bielig’s 2015 BA Honours thesis, “Classifiers and constraints in Chuj topic constructions”, is now available for download here: [PDF]. Louisa finished her BA in 2015 and was awarded McGill’s Cremona Memorial Prize in linguistics for her research on Chuj.

Abstract: Like many other Mayan languages, Chuj, a language of the Q’anjob’alan branch, exhibits syntactic ergativity in the form of an extraction asymmetry. The A’-extraction of transitive subjects (ergative arguments) requires the use of a special construction, known as Agent Focus. However, preverbal ergative subjects without Agent Focus are permitted in topic constructions, where a corresponding nominal classifier, which I refer to as a resumptive classifier, appears post-verbally. Transitive and intransitive preverbal subjects can appear as topics with resumptive classifiers, while preverbal object topics are strongly dispreferred.

In this paper I propose that the preverbal subject in this construction has not been fronted, as is the case in Agent Focus. I argue that it has instead been base-generated in an external topic position and is co-indexed with the resumptive classifier below, following Aissen’s (1992) account of Tsotsil and Popti’ (Jakaltek) external topics. I will employ Aissen’s diagnostics and other tests to show that these topics are not compatible with a movement account, supporting the high base generation analysis. Subsequently, I will present two constraints on the external topic construction, which explain the strong dispreference of object topics.

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Tibetan group lunch

Lorna, Jessica, Maggie, Hadas, Madeleine, Nadia, Tashi, and Mitcho

The Tibetan group –– Lorna, Jessica, Maggie, Hadas, Madeleine, Nadia, Tashi, and Mitcho –– enjoying some end-of-year momos

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by | April 28, 2015 · 8:55 pm

Symposium on American Indian Languages

Lauren Clemens, Madeleine Mees, Cora LeSure, and Jessica Coon at the Syposium on American Indian Languages in Rochester

Lauren Clemens, Madeleine Mees, Cora LeSure, and Jessica Coon at the Syposium on American Indian Languages in Rochester

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by | April 23, 2015 · 11:07 pm