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Deconstructing ErgativityTwo Types of Ergative Languages and Their Features$
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Maria Polinsky

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190256586

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190256586.001.0001

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Proposal

Proposal

Chapter:
(p.28) Chapter 2 Proposal
Source:
Deconstructing Ergativity
Author(s):

Maria Polinsky

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190256586.003.0002

This chapter outlines the core proposal concerning variation across ergative languages. I contend that ergative languages fall into two major types, DP-ergative and PP-ergative. In the former, the ergative is a structural case licensed by a functional head. In the latter, the ergative is an inherent case in the external argument position of a transitive clause. The thematic licensing of such PP-arguments actually comes from the verbal head, and the adposition, which is semantically very light, contributes the case proper. In those PP-ergative languages that do not allow adposition stranding or adposition pied-piping, we can expect that ergative expressions should not be extractable under A-bar movement—that is, we should expect to find syntactic ergativity. Thus syntactic ergativity is a manifestation of the status of the ergative as a PP. Not all PP-ergative languages are expected to be syntactically ergative, but all syntactically ergative languages are expected to have PP-ergatives.

Keywords:   syntactic ergativity, diachronic origins of ergativity, ergative case syncretisms, PP-ergative, DP-ergative, structural case, inherent case

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