Dependent case and clitic dissimilation in Yimas

  • Michelle YuanEmail author


Baker (2015) suggests that the dependent theory of case (Marantz 1991, a.o.) is a formulation of the intuition that morphological case functions to differentiate nominals. This paper presents novel evidence for this idea from the agreement system of Yimas. Departing from previous characterizations of the language, this paper argues that the Yimas agreement morphemes are actually doubled pronominal clitics, and that they exhibit paradigmatic alternations that parallel the distributions of dependent case on nominals crosslinguistically. Crucially, clitic doubling in Yimas is optional; once this is taken into account, it is revealed that the morphological form of a given clitic co-varies with the total number of clitics present, even when the sentence-level syntax is held constant: how a clitic is realized is thus dependent on its clitic environment. This context-dependence is analyzed as a dissimilation process, which applies to distinguish between multiple morphosyntactically indistinguishable clitics; this arises whenever multiple DPs are doubled. Thus, both clitic dissimilation in Yimas and dependent case on nominals can be viewed as alternations that are controlled by morphosyntactic context, albeit in different structural domains.


Dependent case Clitic doubling Yimas Syntax Morphology 



Thank you to Athulya Aravind, Karlos Arregi, Nico Baier, Michael Erlewine, Ksenia Ershova, David Pesetsky, Omer Preminger, Norvin Richards, Matthew Tyler, and participants at CLS51, NELS46, and GLOW39 for helpful discussion and comments. This version of this paper has also benefited from comments from anonymous reviewers, as well as from Daniel Harbour, my editor at NLLT. Finally, I am particularly indebted to William Foley for his correspondence and for writing the grammar in the first place. All errors are my own. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Supplementary material


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AP&MLa JollaUSA

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