Abstract ergative Case without morphological case
Emily Drummond
May 2022

Over the last 30 years, a strand of literature has debated the existence of abstract Case and its licensing function. While some recent work has argued in favor of abstract Case in languages that show no morphological case (Sheehan and van der Wal 2016, Halpert 2016), languages with this profile are overwhelmingly nominatively-aligned; there are no documented examples of an abstract ergative alignment with no morphological ergativity. Furthermore, most cross-linguistic work on ergativity assumes that all syntactically ergative languages also show morphological ergative case (Dixon 1994). This generalization is somewhat surprising from a case-theoretic perspective: if abstract Case exists, we expect to find a language with syntactic ergativity and no morphological ergativity. In this paper, I demonstrate that such a language is in fact attested: Nukuoro (Polynesian Outlier) shows a restriction on ergative extraction despite a lack of morphological ergative case. Additionally, I show that abstract Case in Nukuoro is required for nominal licensing, a claim supported by two environments where licensing appears to fail: namely, within VP and in non-finite clauses. In this way, Nukuoro provides further support for abstract Case in languages without morphological case (Sheehan and van der Wal 2016), specifically abstract ergative Case, as well as a nominal licensing requirement for DP arguments (i.e., the Case Filter; Chomsky 1981).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006616
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear in the Proceedings of NELS 52
keywords: case, licensing, case filter, ergativity, syntactic ergativity, polynesian, morphology, syntax
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