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Chapter 11. Morphosyntactic coding of proper names and its implications for the Animacy Hierarchy

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Abstract

The Animacy Hierarchy (AH) is an important construct employed for the description and explanation of variation and splits in case marking and agreement in various grammatical domains. The AH is a scale that combines person, definiteness and semantic animacy and is used to state clear preferences of certain morphosyntactic coding types over others. One assumption of the AH is that proper names (PNs) occupy an intermediate place between personal pronouns and common nouns. Despite the large body of research since its first extensive formulation in Silverstein (1976), it is astonishing that there has been almost no empirical evidence published for this claim. Since the AH has been formulated mostly on the basis of case marking and agreement phenomena in languages with split ergativity or hierarchical alignment, we compiled a sample of more than 30 such languages in order to find data on the morphosyntactic coding of PNs. While there are only a very few instances that confirm the claim, there are more instances that contradict it. We concluded that PNs should be removed from the AH, since their assumed position has no predictive value for typological generalizations.

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... In comparison, there are few cross-linguistic studies which deal with the synchronic grammatical features of proper names (henceforth, pns). Recently, however, this field seems to have received more interest (Anderson, 2004(Anderson, , 2007(Anderson, , 2015; Van Langendonck, 2007;Schlücker & Ackermann, 2017;Handschuh, 2017;Helmbrecht, Denk, Thanner & Tonetti, 2018). Most of these studies draw, in any case, on analyses of a few well-known Indo-European languages (Anderson, 2004, p. 435; Van Langendonck & Van de Velde, 2016, p. 18). ...
... especially Silverstein (1976: 122) for properhood). These are left aside here, because not enough is known about the coding of proper names and kinship terms as core arguments (but see Helmbrecht et al. 2018 for some recent findings). The singular-plural distinction is also sometimes cited in this connection (e.g., by Bickel et al. 2015: 17), but most authors regard it as an orthogonal dimension (e.g., Dixon 1994: 91). ...
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Article
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Differential case marking is often determined on the basis of inherent semantic properties associated with core arguments of the verb. This frequently results in a hierarchical split in which certain types of NPs are more or less likely to be case marked when in the role of agent/patient. The Referential Hierarchy (RH) (see Silverstein 1976; Comrie 1981) models this phenomenon in terms of the markedness of agent vs. patient roles, based on the semantic parameters of animacy/definiteness. Yet recent studies have raised doubts as to the constistency of the RH in predicting split-ergative marking (e.g. Filimonova 2005; Bickel 2008). This paper explores an Indo-Aryan dialect with an NP-split in ergative marking that appears to contradict the RH: Kherwada Wagdi. It examines the possible historical scenarios that could result in a reverse NP-split, suggesting that such historical transitions tend to follow a non-linear course and are frequently left incomplete.
Article
A systematic collection of problems and counterexamples is presented for predictions of patterns of relational marking on noun phrases in terms of a noun phrase hierarchy (also known as animacy hierarchy), as conceived of by Silverstein (1976) and others. In seeking to account for case marking distributions that are at odds with the three main principles underlying the noun phrase hierarchy - role expectation, marking economy, scalar continuity -, the ordering of 1st and 2nd person pronouns on top of the hierarchy is given particular attention. Several ways of liberalizing noun phrase rankings in terms of feature systems, in particular an equal ranking for speech-act participants, are considered in order to square hierarchy predictions with the attested diversity of pronominal case marking in split alignment systems.
Article
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Article
The Anatolian branch of Indo-European is characterized by a split-ergative case-marking system in which neuters inflect ergatively and common-gender nouns inflect accusatively; its ergative case originated via the reanalysis of an unproductive neuter instrumental marker in null-subject transitive clauses. A development from instrumental to ergative also occurred in the prehistory of the Gorokan languages of Papua New Guinea, and it is suggested that this process is a general mechanism for the development of split ergativity of this type. The well-known NP hierarchy discovered by Silverstein receives a natural interpretation as a hierarchy of instrumentality.
Article
Nominative/absolutive case and verb agreement are, in many languages, indicators of a category which is here called VIEWPOINT: the perspective from which the speaker describes the event. The order of NP constituents in a sentence encodes ATTENTION FLOW, which is the order in which the speaker expects the hearer to attend to them. Split ergative case-marking patterns are shown to reflect conflicts between the most natural viewpoint and attention-flow assignments. It is argued that the characterization and grammatical marking of an event as first-hand or inferred knowledge for a speaker, and as intentional or inadvertent for an actor, can be described in terms of whether the entire event or only its terminal phase is directly accessible to the conscious mind of the speaker and the actor, respectively; and that these categories can also be described in terms of attention flow and viewpoint.
Article
The present paper investigates the relationship between dislocation and differential object marking in some Romance languages. As in many languages that have a DOM system, it is usually also assumed that in Romance languages the phenomenon is regulated by the semantic features of the referents, such as animacy, definiteness, and specificity. In the languages under investigation, though, these features cannot explain the distribution and the emergence of DOM. After discussing the main theoretical approaches to the phenomenon, I will analyse DOM in four Romance languages. I will argue that DOM emerges in pragmatically and semantically marked contexts, namely with personal pronouns in dislocations. I will then show that in these languages the use of the DOM system is mainly motivated by the need to signal the markedness of these direct objects as a consequence of being used in (mainly left) dislocation as topics (cf. English “As for him, we didn't see him“). Finally, the examination of comparative data from Persian and Amazonian languages lends further support to the advocated approach in terms of information structure.
In his pioneer work on the Burushaski language, Lorimer (1935a:64) noted the existence of what has been later described as an ergative construction: the subject of a transitive verb is in the ergative case (a special case, usually marked by the suffix-e) while the subject of inttransitive verbs, as well as the object of transitive verbs, are in the absolutive case (morphologically unmarked) as appears in the examples 1(a)-(c) below. © 1982, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. All rights reserved.
Article
A formal approach to the typology of differential object marking (DOM) is developed within the framework of Optimality Theory. The functional/typological literature has established that variation in DOM is structured by the dimensions of animacy and definiteness, with degree of prominence on these dimensions directly correlated with the likelihood of overt case-marking. In the present analysis, the degree to which DOM penetrates the class of objects reflects the tension between two types of principles. One involves iconicity: the more marked a direct object qua object, the more likely it is to be overtly case-marked. The other is a principle of economy: avoid case-marking. The tension between the two principles is resolved differently in different languages, as determined by language-particular ranking of the corresponding constraints. Constraints expressing object markedness are derived throughharmonic alignment of prominence scales. Harmonic alignment predicts a corresponding phenomenon ofdifferential subject marking. This too exists, though in a less articulated form.
Article
Warrwa is a morphologically ergative language with three ergative markers, -na, -ma, and -nma. Intriguingly, while -ma is almost in complementary distribution with both -naand -nma, the latter pair are in “free variation”, and either can replace the other anywhere. When it is used, however, -nma accords prominence to an Agent (i.e. transitive subject), singling it out as both unexpected and highly agentive; accordingly it can be considered to be a focal ergative marker. By contrast, -na is an ordinary ergative marker, with no pragmatic components to its meaning; the situation for -ma is uncertain. The story is complicated further by the fact that ergative markers are occasionally omitted from Agent NPs. This “optional” ergative marking is not random: it defocusses the Agent, indicating that it is both expected and low in agentivity. Much of the paper is taken up by presentation of evidence for, and explication of, these claims based on an examination of the distribution of the markers in a corpus of mostly narrative texts. An attempt is also made to explain the system of marking of Agent NPs in Warrwa, and situate it in relation to other languages.
Article
Since its first publication, Language Universals and Linguistic Typology has become established as the leading introductory account of one of the most productive areas of linguistics—the analysis, comparison, and classification of the common features and forms of the organization of languages. Adopting an approach to the subject pioneered by Greenberg and others, Bernard Comrie is particularly concerned with syntactico-semantic universals, devoting chapters to word order, case making, relative clauses, and causative constructions. His book is informed throughout by the conviction that an exemplary account of universal properties of human language cannot restrict itself to purely formal aspects, nor focus on analysis of a single language. Rather, it must also consider language use, relate formal properties to testable claims about cognition and cognitive development, and treat data from a wide range of languages. This second edition has been revised and updated to take full account of new research in universals and typology in the past decade, and more generally to consider how the approach advocated here relates to recent advances in generative grammatical theory.
Elements of ergativity and nominativity in Tangut
  • Kepping
Kepping, K. B. 1979. Elements of ergativity and nominativity in Tangut. In Frans Planck (ed.), Ergativity: towards a theory of grammatical relations, 263-277. London: Academic Press.
Algonquian verb structure: Plains Cree
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The animacy hierarchy in Chukchee
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Comrie, Bernard. 1979. The animacy hierarchy in Chukchee. In: Clyne, Paul R., Hanks, William F., Hofbauer, Carol L. (eds.) The elements: a parasession on linguistic units and levels, including papers from the Conference on Non-Slavic Languages of the USSR, 322-336. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
Nominal hierarchies in Yukulta
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McConvell, Patrick. 1976. Nominal hierarchies in Yukulta. In Grammatical Categories in A ustralian Languages, Robert M. W. Dixon (ed.), 191-200. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Accusative marking in Duungidjawu (Waga-Waga)
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Wurm, Stephen Adolphe. 1976. Accusative marking in Duungidjawu (Waga-Waga). In Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages, Robert M. W. Dixon (ed.), 106-111. Canberra: Australian institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Case marking affixes in Gugu-Yalanij
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Hershberger, Henry. 1964. Case marking affixes in Gugu-Yalanij. In Papers on the Languages of the Australian Aborigines, Richard Pittmann & Harland Kerr (eds), 73-82. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Degrees of ergativity in Chukchee
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Nedjalkov, Vladimir P. 1979. Degrees of ergativity in Chukchee. In Ergativity. Towards a Theory of Grammatical Relations, Frans Plank (ed.), 241-262. London: Academic Press.
Hierarchies of person
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Zwicky, Arnold. 1977. Hierarchies of person. In Papers from the Thirteenth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, Woodford A. Beach, Samuel E. Fox & Shulamith Philosoph (eds), 712-733. Chicago IL: Chicago Linguistic Society. References 3. Arabana Southern Australia Australian, Pama-Nyungan, Karnic, Palku Hercus (1994)
A Grammar of Diyari South Australia
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Austin, Peter K. 1981. A Grammar of Diyari South Australia. Cambridge: CUP.
Algonquian verb structure: Plains Cree. In What's in a verb?
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Bakker, Peter. 2006. Algonquian verb structure: Plains Cree. In What's in a verb?, Grażyna J. Rowicka & Eithne Carlin (eds), 3-27. Utrecht: LOT.