Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 429–479 | Cite as

Anti-locality and optimality in Kaqchikel Agent Focus

Article

Abstract

Many Mayan languages show a syntactically ergative extraction asymmetry whereby the A̅-extraction of subjects of transitive verbs requires special verbal morphology, known as Agent Focus. In this paper I investigate the syntax of Agent Focus in Kaqchikel, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. I argue that this extraction asymmetry in Kaqchikel is the result of a particular anti-locality constraint which bans movement that is too close. Support for this claim comes from new data on the distribution of Agent Focus in Kaqchikel that show this locality-sensitivity.

The distribution and realization of Agent Focus will then be modeled using a system of ranked, violable constraints operating over competing derivations. This theoretical choice will be supported by details in the pattern of agreement in Agent Focus. I will then show how rerankings of the proposed constraints can model the attested distribution of Agent Focus in a number of other Mayan languages. I also discuss extensions of this approach to other patterns of anti-agreement.

Keywords

Agent Focus Mayan Ergativity Extraction asymmetries Anti-locality Agreement Anti-agreement Violable constraints 

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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