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Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 1273–1330 | Cite as

The structural ergative of Basque and the theory of Case

  • Milan Rezac
  • Pablo Albizu
  • Ricardo Etxepare
Article

Abstract

We investigate the nature of morphological ergativity through the ergative/split-S system of Basque. We show that in Basque ergative case and agreement reflect structural rather than inherent Case: Agree/Move rather than selection. Evidence comes from the core distinctions between these dependency types, including ergative-absolutive alternations due to absolutive Exceptional Case Marking of external arguments and raising-to-ergative of internal arguments. In consequence, structural Agree/Case systems cannot be reduced to a nominative-accusative basis with an inherent ergative, as has been proposed. Our investigation sheds light on the nature of structural ergativity in Basque. First, ergativity like nominativity comes from the T-system, whereas absolutivity and accusativity are in the v-system. Second, ergative agreement can occur under unbounded c-command through Agree, like nominative, accusative, and absolutive case and agreement, but ergative case requires movement to Spec,T, bearing out the ergative as a ‘marked’ structural Case. Third, structural Agree/Case systems are parametrizable to give both ergative and accusative alignments and islands of exceptionality within each. We develop a theoretical account of these results in the Agree framework of the Principles-and-Parameters approach, building on previous theories of structural ergativity.

Keywords

Ergativity Structural/inherent Case Agree Raising ECM Basque 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We have greatly benefited from the comments of two reviewers and Marcel den Dikken, and we thank them. We are also grateful to participants of Research Nets in Humanities 2010, BCGL 5: Case at the Interfaces, and the Cambridge Conference on Comparative Syntax 1. This research has been partly funded by grants from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (FFI2008-00240/FILO, FFI2011-26906 and FFI2011-29218), the Basque Government Research Nets in Humanities (HM-2009-1-1), the Basque Department of Education, Universities and Research (IT769-13), the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-07-CORP-033), Aquitaine-Euskadi Funds 2012 (“The phrase in Basque and in neighbouring languages”), and the University of the Basque Country (UFI11/14).

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRSIKER UMR 5478BaionaFrance
  2. 2.University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)Vitoria-GasteizSpain

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