Person features and shiftiness
Amy Rose Deal
February 2024

What are the basic syntactic pieces underlying person systems, and how does the grammar combine and manipulate these pieces? Most discussion of these questions has taken place against a relatively standard backdrop of assumptions concerning the possible meanings of the semantic primitives to which syntactic pieces or features correspond. First person, for instance, refers to the individual who is speaking; second person refers to the individual who is being addressed. This paper explores what can be learned about the syntactic and semantic representation of person from cases where this baseline behavior fails to hold. Three case studies are presented. The first investigates the relationship between second person features and first person features, focusing in particular on cases where first person shifts but second person does not. I show that (perhaps surprisingly) these facts are compatible both with a theory with dedicated second person features and with a theory positing only speaker and participant features. The second case study explores the nature of locative expressions, and in particular the proposal from Harbour 2016 that words such as "here" have person features at their core. I argue against this proposal based on cases where first person shifts but locatives do not. Lastly, the third case study investigates the nature of person inflection in languages such as Amharic, which contain indexiphors (Deal 2018). I argue that "first person inflection" in this language reflects a syncretism between two separate types of features, properly indexical first person features (which reference the author of the context) and indexiphoric author features (which reference the author of the index of interpretation). (Along the way, I present an analysis of what has been sometimes called ``shifty agreement.'') Syncretism of this type suggests that standard first person features are not themselves primitive, but rather consist at the "subatomic'' level of a specification of the author function and a specification of the formal object (the context) to which this function applies.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005433
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear in an OUP volume
keywords: first person, second person, locative, indexical, indexical shift, syncretism, atom, primitive, semantics, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v2 [July 2021]
v1 [September 2020]
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