Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 315–342

DP ellipsis in Tongan: is syntactic ergativity real?



This paper proposes that syntactic ergativity should be understood as a construction-based phenomenon rather than a parametric property that defines a subset of morphologically ergative languages. It argues that syntactic ergativity arises when the relevant operation is sensitive to (abstract) Case. Since not all syntactic operations are sensitive to Case, it is expected that some morphologically ergative languages do not show syntactic ergativity, or even demonstrate syntactic split ergativity. As an illustration, two types of coordination reduction in Tongan (Polynesian) are examined: pea-coordination showing an ergative/absolutive pattern and mo-coordination showing a nominative/accusative pattern. It is argued that DP ellipsis in pea-coordination is a Case-sensitive operation, i.e., PF deletion based on featural identity, whereas mo-coordination involves a null pronoun and LF copying, which is based on positional identity, regardless of Case.


Ergativity Ellipsis Coordination Case Tongan 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, Victoria, and Yuko Otsuka. 2006. The phonetics and phonology of “definitive accent” in Tongan. Oceanic Linguistics 45: 33–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aoun, Joseph, Lina Choueiri, and Norbert Hornstein. 2001. Resumption, movement, and derivational economy. Linguistic Inquiry 32: 371–403. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bickel, Balthasar, and Yogendra P. Yadava. 2000. A fresh look at grammatical relations in Indo-Aryan. Lingua 110: 343–373. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bittner, Maria, and Ken Hale. 1996a. The structural determination of Case and agreement. Linguistic Inquiry 27: 1–68. Google Scholar
  5. Bittner, Maria, and Ken Hale. 1996b. Ergativity: toward a theory of a heterogeneous class. Linguistic Inquiry 27: 531–604. Google Scholar
  6. Bobaljik, Jonathan. 1993. On ergativity and ergative unergatives. In Papers on case and agreement II, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, 19, ed. Colin Philipps, 45–88. Cambridge: MIT. Google Scholar
  7. Bresnan, Joan, and Höskuldur Thráinsson. 1990. A note on Icelandic coordination. In Modern Icelandic syntax, syntax and semantics, 24, eds. Joan Maling and Annie Zaenen, 355–365. San Diego: Academic Press. Google Scholar
  8. Burton, Strang, and Jane Grimshaw. 1992. Coordination and VP-internal subjects. Linguistic Inquiry 23: 305–313. Google Scholar
  9. Burzio, Luigi. 1986. Italian syntax. Dordrecht: Reidel. Google Scholar
  10. Chao, Wynn. 1987. On ellipsis. Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Google Scholar
  11. Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  12. Chomsky, Noam. 2000. Minimalist inquiry: the framework. In Step by step: essays on minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik, eds. Roger Martin, David Michaels, and Juan Uriagereka, 89–155. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  13. Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In Ken hale: a life in language, ed. Michael Kenstowicz, 1–54. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  14. Chung, Sandra. 1978. Case marking and grammatical relations in Polynesian. Austin: University of Texas Press. Google Scholar
  15. Chung, Sandra, William A. Ladusaw, and James McCloskey. 1995. Sluicing and logical form. Natural Language Semantics 3: 239–282. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Churchward, C. Maxwell. 1953. Tongan grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  17. Collins, Chris. 1997. Argument sharing in serial verb constructions. Linguistic Inquiry 28: 461–497. Google Scholar
  18. de Josselin de Jong, J.P.B. 1937. Studies in Indonesian culture, I: Oirata, a Timorese settlement on Kisar. Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij. Google Scholar
  19. Dixon, R.M.W. 1979. Ergativity. Language 55: 59–138. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dixon, R.M.W. 1994. Ergativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  21. Donohue, Mark, and Lea Brown. 1999. Ergativity: some additions from Indonesia. Australian Journal of Linguistics 19: 57–76. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fiengo, Robert, and Robert May. 1994. Indices and identity. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  23. Godard, Danièle. 1989. Empty categories as subjects of tensed Ss in English or French? Linguistic Inquiry 20: 497–506. Google Scholar
  24. Halle, Morris, and Alec Marantz. 1993. Distributed morphology and the pieces of inflection. In The view from Building 20, eds. Ken Hale and Samuel J. Keyser, 111–176. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  25. Hankamer, Jorge, and Ivan Sag. 1976. Deep and surface anaphora. Linguistic Inquiry 7: 391–428. Google Scholar
  26. Hardt, Daniel. 1993. Verb phrase ellipsis: form, meaning, and processing. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania. Google Scholar
  27. Haspelmath, Martin. 2007. Coordination. In Language typology and syntactic description, ed. Timothy Shopen. Vol. II of Complex of constructions, 2nd edn., 1–51. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holmberg, Anders. 2001. The syntax of yes and no in Finnish. Studia Linguistica 55: 141–175. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hornstein, Norbert. 1999. Movement and control. Linguistic Inquiry 30: 69–96. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hornstein, Norbert. 2000. Move! A minimalist theory of construal. Oxford: Blackwell. Google Scholar
  31. Hudson, Richard. 1976. Conjunction reduction, gapping, and right node raising. Language 52: 535–562. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jackendoff, Ray. 1971. Gapping and related rules. Linguistic Inquiry 2: 21–36. Google Scholar
  33. Johannessen, Janne B. 1998. Coordination. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  34. Kayne, Richard. 1994. The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  35. Kitagawa, Yoshihisa. 1991. Copying identity. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 9: 497–536. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Laka, Itziar. 1993. Unergatives that assigns ergative, unaccusatives that assign accusative. In Papers on case and agreement I, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, 18, eds. Jonathan Bobaljik and Colin Philipps, 149–172. Cambridge: MIT. Google Scholar
  37. Landau, Idan. 2004. The scale of finiteness and the calculus of control. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 22: 811–877. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lasnik, Howard. 1995. A note on pseudogapping. In MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 27, eds. Robert Pensalfini and Hiroyuki Ura, 143–163. Cambridge: MIT. Google Scholar
  39. Lebeaux, David. 1985. Locality and anaphoric binding. The Linguistic Review 4: 343–363. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Legate, Julie. 2006. Split absolutive. In Ergativity: emerging issues, eds. Alana Johns, Diane Massam, and Juvenal Ndayiragije, 143–171. Dordrecht: Springer. Google Scholar
  41. Legate, Julie. 2008. Morphological and abstract case. Linguistic Inquiry 39: 55–101. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Levin, Beth. 1983. Unaccusative verbs in Basque. In Proceedings of NELS 13, eds. Peter Sells and Charles Jones, 129–144. Amherst: GLSA, University of Massachusetts. Google Scholar
  43. Levin, Juliette, and Diane Massam. 1985. Surface ergativity: case-/theta relations re-examined. In Proceedings of NELS 15, eds. Stephen Berman, Jae-Woon Choe, and Joyce McDonough, 286–301. Amherst: GLSA, University of Massachusetts. Google Scholar
  44. Levin, Juliette, and Diane Massam. 1986. Classification of Niuean verbs: notes on case. In FOCAL I: papers from the fourth international conference on Austronesian linguistics, eds. Paul Geraghty, Lois Carrington, and Stephen A. Wurm, Vol. C-93 of Pacific linguistics, 231–244. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Google Scholar
  45. Lobeck, Anne. 1991. Phrase structure of ellipsis in English. In Perspectives on phrase structure: heads and licensing, ed. Susan Rothstein, 81–103. New York: Academic Press. Google Scholar
  46. Lobeck, Anne. 1995. Ellipsis: functional heads, licensing, and identification. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  47. Lobeck, Anne. 1999. VP ellipsis and the minimalist program. In Fragments: studies in ellipsis and gapping, eds. Shalom Lapin and Elabbas Benmamoun, 98–123. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  48. Mahajan, Anoop K. 1997. Universal grammar and the typology of ergative languages. In Studies on Universal Grammar and typological variation, eds. Artemis Alexiadou and T. Alan Hall, 35–57. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Google Scholar
  49. Maling, Joan. 1972. On gapping and the order of constituents. Linguistic Inquiry 3: 101–108. Google Scholar
  50. Marantz, Alec. 1997. No escape from syntax: don’t try morphological analysis in the privacy of your own lexicon. In University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 4.2, Proceedings of the 21st annual Penn linguistics colloquium, eds. Alexis Dimitriadis, Laura Siegel, Clarissa Surek-Clark, and Alexander Williams, 201–225. Philadelphia: Penn Linguistics Club. Google Scholar
  51. Massam, Diane. 2000. VSO and VOS: Aspects of Niuean word order. In The syntax of verb initial languages, eds. Andrew Carnie and Eithne Guilfoyle, 97–116. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  52. Massam, Diane. 2001. Pseudo noun incorporation in Niuean. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 19: 153–197. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McNally, Luise. 1992. VP coordination and the VP-internal subject hypothesis. Linguistic Inquiry 23: 336–341. Google Scholar
  54. Merchant, Jason. 2001. The syntax of silence: sluicing, islands, and the theory of ellipsis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  55. Miyagawa, Shigeru. 2001. The EPP, scrambling, and wh-in-situ. In Ken Hale: a life in language, ed. Michael Kenstowicz, 293–338. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  56. Miyagawa, Shigeru. 2005. On the EPP. In Perspectives on phase, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, 49, eds. Martha McGinnis and Norvin Richards, 201–35. Cambridge: MIT. Google Scholar
  57. Mohanan, Tara. 1994. Argument structure in Hindi. Stanford: CSLI. Google Scholar
  58. Moyse-Faurie, Claire, and John Lynch. 2004. Coordination in Oceanic languages and Proto Oceanic. In Coordinating constructions, ed. Martin Haspelmath, 445–498. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Google Scholar
  59. Munn, Alan. 1993. Topics in the syntax and semantics of coordinate structures. Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland. Google Scholar
  60. Murasugi, Kumiko. 1992. Crossing and nested paths: NP movement in accusative and ergative languages. Doctoral dissertation, MIT. Google Scholar
  61. Nunes, Jairo. 2001. Sideward movement. Linguistic Inquiry 32: 303–44. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Otsuka, Yuko. 2000. Ergativity in Tongan. Doctoral dissertation, University of Oxford. Google Scholar
  63. Otsuka, Yuko. 2002. Syntactic ergativity and the nature of pronouns in Tongan. In Proceedings of AFLA8, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, 44, eds. Andrea Rackowski and Norvin Richards, 197–210. Cambridge: MIT. Google Scholar
  64. Otsuka, Yuko. 2005a. Two derivations of VSO: a comparative study of Niuean and Tongan. In Verb first: on the syntax of verb-initial languages, eds. Andrew Carnie, Heidi Harley, and Sheila A. Dooley, 281–302. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Google Scholar
  65. Otsuka, Yuko. 2005b. Scrambling and information focus: VSO-VOS alternation in Tongan. In The free word order phenomenon: its syntactic sources and diversity, eds. Joachim Sabel and Mamoru Saito, 243–279. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Google Scholar
  66. Otsuka, Yuko. 2006. Syntactic ergativity in Tongan: resumptive pronouns revisited. In Ergativity: emerging issues, eds. Alana Johns, Diane Massam, and Juvenal Ndayiragije, 79–107. Dordrecht: Springer. Google Scholar
  67. Polinsky, Maria, and Eric Potsdam. 2006. Expanding the scope of control and raising. Syntax 9: 171–192. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Postal, Paul. 1974. On raising: one rule of English grammar and its theoretical implications. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  69. Postal, Paul. 1998. Three investigations of extraction. Vol. 29 of Current studies in linguistics series. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar
  70. Richards, Norvin. 1997. What moves where when in which language? Doctoral dissertation, MIT. Google Scholar
  71. Rögnvaldsson, Eirikur. 1982. We need (some kind of a) rule of conjunction reduction. Linguistic Inquiry 13: 557–561. Google Scholar
  72. Rooth, Mats. 1992. Ellipsis redundancy and reduction redundancy. In Proceedings of the Stuttgarter ellipsis workshop, eds. Steve Berman and Arild Hestrik. Arbeitspapiere des Sonderforschungsbereichs 340, no. 29. Google Scholar
  73. Sabbagh, Joseph. 2007. Ordering and linearizing rightward movement. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 25: 349–401. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Suñer, Margarita. 1998. Resumptive restrictive relatives: a crosslinguistic perspective. Language 74: 335–364. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Tancredi, Cristopher. 1992. Deletion, deaccenting, and presupposition. Doctoral dissertation, MIT. Google Scholar
  76. Ura, Hiroyuki. 2000. Checking theory and grammatical functions in Universal Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  77. Van Valin, Robert D. Jr. 1986. An empty category as the subject of a tensed S in English. Linguistic Inquiry 17: 581–586. Google Scholar
  78. Wasow, Thomas. 1972. Anaphoric relations in English. Doctoral dissertation, MIT. Google Scholar
  79. Wilder, Chris. 1994. ATB and ellipsis. In Minimalism and Kayne’s antisymmetry hypothesis, ed. Jan-Wouter Zwart. Vol. 37 of Groninger Arbeiten zur germanistischen Linguistik, 291–329. Groningen: University of Groningen. Google Scholar
  80. Wilder, Chris. 1995. Some properties of ellipsis in coordination. Geneva Generative Working Papers 2: 23–61. Google Scholar
  81. Williams, Edwin. 1977. Discourse and logical form. Linguistic Inquiry 8: 101–139. Google Scholar
  82. Williams, Edwin. 1978. Across-the-board rule application. Linguistic Inquiry 9: 31–43. Google Scholar
  83. Wiltschko, Martina. 2006. On ergativity in Halkomelem Salish. In Ergativity: emerging issues, eds. Alana Johns, Diane Massam, and Juvenal Ndayiragije, 197–227. Dordrecht: Springer. Google Scholar
  84. Woolford, Ellen. 1997. Four-way case systems: ergative, nominative, objective, and accusative. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 15: 181–227. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Woolford, Ellen. 2006. Lexical case, inherent case, and argument structure. Linguistic Inquiry 37: 111–130. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Zagona, Karen. 1988. Verb phrase syntax: a parametric study of English and Spanish. Dordrecht: Kluwer. Google Scholar
  87. Zubizarreta, Maria Luisa. 1998. Prosody, focus, and word order. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of Hawai‘i at ManoaHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations