Finiteness bears on issues pertaining to some of the most central properties of a clause: its tense, aspect, mood, agreement, the referential properties and case-marking of its subject and, more generally, the way in which the clause is anchored to a higher one or to the utterance context. And yet, given the increasing amount of empirical evidence challenging conventional definitions of finiteness, it remains one of the least understood concepts in linguistic theory. The series of eleven papers in this volume presents new evidence on the nature of finiteness from a number of hitherto under-studied languages, namely those of the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language families spoken in South Asia. The hope is that these papers will encourage the reader to deepen their knowledge and simultaneously question their existing view of finiteness. The introduction below sets the stage for the rest of this volume: we briefly describe the content of the individual papers included here and situate them within the larger context of the rich dialogue on finiteness.
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X is a governing category for Y iff X is the minimal category containing Y, a governor of Y, and an accessible subject for Y. The notion of “government” itself is defined as follows (Chomsky 1981:250):
Since we are discussing the state of the theory within the GB framework, we are using the trace notation that was prevalent then; of course, the existence of traces as distinct objects has since been questioned and entirely abandoned within the Minimalist framework.
This specification differs from that proposed by Raposo (1987) with respect to the tense feature, but is in line with his own discussion of the temporal interpretation of the relevant clauses.
Whether such an analysis ultimately proves to be the correct one can, of course, only be decided upon the careful examination of these and related data. The point we are making here is simply that this model provides us with the syntactic tools and vocabulary needed to deal with such empirical patterns.
Of the four literary Dravidian languages, this strictly applies only to Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. Malayalam lacks verb agreement, but it behaves the same as the other three languages on the remaining points of complementary distribution.
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We are extremely grateful to the participants of the workshop “Finiteness in South Asian Languages” held at the University of Tromsø in 2011, without whose attendance and insightful presentations, this volume would not have come to be, and of course to the authors of the papers included herein for their cooperation and commitment to this volume. Thanks also to our reviewers for taking time out of their busy schedules to comment on papers, often more than once, and to Marcel den Dikken, in particular, for his expert guidance with the editing process and for his unflagging enthusiasm, patience, and good humor throughout.
Authors are listed in alphabetical order.
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McFadden, T., Sundaresan, S. Finiteness in South Asian languages: an introduction. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 32, 1–27 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-013-9215-7
- OC pro
- Deixis vs. anaphora