LINGUIST List 16.458

Tue Feb 15 2005

Diss: Syntax/Typology: Aldridge: 'Ergativity and ...'

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        1.    Edith Aldridge, Ergativity and Word Order in Austronesian Languages

Message 1: Ergativity and Word Order in Austronesian Languages

Date: 15-Feb-2005
From: Edith Aldridge <>
Subject: Ergativity and Word Order in Austronesian Languages

Institution: Cornell University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Edith Aldridge

Dissertation Title: Ergativity and Word Order in Austronesian Languages

Linguistic Field(s): Syntax

Subject Language(s): Tagalog (TGL)
                            Taroko (TRV)
Language Family(ies): Austronesian

Dissertation Director:
Molly Diesing
John Whitman
John Wolff

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis proposes a Minimalist analysis of ergativity and word order in
the Austronesian languages Tagalog and Seediq. Based on broad typological
comparison, I propose that there are two types of syntactically ergative
language and that Tagalog and Seediq are each representative of one type.
In ergative languages like Tagalog, T checks absolutive case in
intransitive clauses, but v checks case in transitive clauses. I label
these 'v-type' ergative languages. In the class of ergative language which
Seediq belongs to, T checks absolutive case in both transitive and
intransitive clauses. These are 'T-type' ergative languages. Empirically,
the main distinction between the two types is that more subject properties
are afforded to the absolutive nominal in T-type languages, while
absolutives in v-type languages are more object-like in their behavior.

This thesis also proposes an account of the absolutive restriction on
A'-extraction. In syntactically ergative languages of both the v- and
T-type, only the absolutive DP is eligible to undergo A'-movement out of
the clause. For both types of language, I propose that v carries an EPP
feature only when it is transitive. The consequence of this in the theory
of Multiple Spell-Out is that a VP-internal DP will be attracted to a
specifier of v only in transitive clauses, when this DP has absolutive
status. From the vP phase edge, the absolutive is then able to undergo
further movement to [Spec, C]. In antipassives, however, which are
intransitive, v will not have an EPP feature, and the oblique direct object
will not be able to move out of VP without violating the Phase
Impenetrability Condition.

Both Tagalog and Seediq have verb-initial word order. I propose a
verb-movement analysis of VSO order in Tagalog. For Seediq VOS word order,
I propose a predicate-fronting account in which the absolutive is treated
as a topic and moves obligatorily to the C domain. Subsequently, the
remnant TP fronts further to its left. I show that TP-fronting is not
triggered by morphological features but rather is an indirect consequence
of a PF constraint which prohibits spelling out a DP in the left edge of a

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