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Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 149–173 | Cite as

Adverbs and variability in Kaqchikel Agent Focus

A reply to Erlewine (2016)
Article

Abstract

In many languages with ergative morphology, transitive subjects (i.e. ergatives) are unable to undergo A’-extraction. This extraction asymmetry is a common hallmark of “syntactic ergativity,” and is found in a range of typologically diverse languages (see e.g. Deal 2016; Polinsky 2017, and works cited there). In Kaqchikel, the A’-extraction of transitive subjects requires a special verb form, known in Mayanist literature as Agent Focus (AF). In a recent paper, Erlewine (2016) argues that the restriction on A’-extracting transitive subjects in Kaqchikel is the result of an Anti-Locality effect: transitive subjects are not permitted to extract because they are too close to C0. This analysis relies crucially on Erlewine’s proposal that transitive subjects undergo movement to Spec,IP while intransitive subjects remain low. For Erlewine, this derives the fact that transitive (ergative) subjects, but not intransitive (absolutive) subjects are subject to extraction restrictions. Furthermore, it makes the strong prediction that phrasal material intervening between IP and CP should obviate the need for AF in clauses with subject extraction. In this paper, we argue against the Anti-Locality analysis of ergative A’-extraction restrictions along two lines. First, we raise concerns with the proposal that transitive, but not intransitive subjects, move to Spec,IP. Our second, and main goal, is to show that there is variation in whether AF is observed in configurations with intervening phrasal material, with a primary focus on intervening adverbs. We propose an alternative account for the variation in whether AF is observed in the presence of adverbs and discuss consequences for accounts of ergative extraction asymmetries more generally.

Keywords

Agent Focus A’-extraction Ergativity Anti-Locality Agreement Kaqchikel Adverbs 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Juan Ajsivinac, Gonzalo Ticun, Kanb’alam Batz, Ryan Bennett, Colin Brown, Lauren Clemens, Meaghan Fowlie, Henrison Hsieh, Hadas Kotek, Mitcho Erlewine, Justin Royer, Carlos Humberto Sactic, Byron Socorec, Lisa Travis, and Omer Preminger for helpful comments and discussion, as well as to audiences at NELS 46 and McGill for feedback. Special thanks to three anonymous reviewers and to Julie Anne Legate for detailed feedback at various stages of this work. Any errors are of course our own.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ArizonaTusconUSA
  2. 2.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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