Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 659–702 | Cite as

Aspect splits without ergativity

Agreement asymmetries in Neo-Aramaic
  • Laura KalinEmail author
  • Coppe van Urk


This paper looks at two different aspect splits in Neo-Aramaic languages that are unusual in that they do not involve any ergativity. Instead, these splits are characterized by agreement reversal, a pattern in which the function of agreement markers switches between aspects, though the alignment of agreement remains consistently nominative-accusative. Some Neo-Aramaic languages have complete agreement reversal, affecting both subject and object agreement (Khan 2002, 2008; Coghill 2003). In addition to this, we describe a different system, found in Senaya, which we call partial agreement reversal. In Senaya, the reversal only affects the marker of the perfective subject, which marks objects in the imperfective. We show that a unifying property of the systems that we discuss is that there is additional agreement potential in the imperfective. We develop an account in which these splits arise because of an aspectual predicate in the imperfective that introduces an additional φ-probe. This proposal provides support for the view that aspect splits are the result of an additional predicate in nonperfective aspects (Laka 2006; Coon 2010; Coon and Preminger 2012), because it allows for the apparently disparate phenomena of split ergativity and agreement reversal to be given a unified treatment.


Aspect splits Split ergativity Neo-Aramaic Agreement Syntax 



We are indebted to Byron Ahn, Sabine Iatridou, Anoop Mahajan, David Pesetsky, Masha Polinsky, Omer Preminger, Norvin Richards, Carson Schütze, and Tim Stowell for helpful discussions about this research. We also thank Laura McPherson and Kevin Ryan, whose fieldwork and morphological analysis of Senaya made this research possible, and their language consultant Paul Caldani, for sharing his love of his language with us. Our thanks also to Marcel den Dikken, two anonymous NLLT reviewers, and the insightful audiences at GLOW 35, WCCFL 30, and CLS 48. Authors are listed alphabetically. The first author was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCLA LinguisticsLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.MIT Linguistics & PhilosophyCambridgeUSA

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