Ergativity in the syntax without syntactic ergativity
Ksenia Ershova
July 2024

A subset of morphologically ergative languages have been claimed to display syntactic rules which are sensitive to the distinction between ergative and absolutive arguments---syntactic ergativity. The most robustly attested syntactic ergativity effect concerns the accessibility of the ergative argument for displacement (relativization, topicalization, focus fronting, question formation, etc.). Researchers have explicitly or implicitly assumed that there are no syntactically ergative languages which do not display a constraint on ergative displacement, and as a result, the term syntactic ergativity has largely come to be synonymous with this constraint. Using data from West Circassian (Northwest Caucasian) and Samoan (Polynesian), this paper challenges this position on two counts. Firstly, it argues that a universal correlation between syntactic ergativity and a ban on ergative displacement is theoretically unexpected and empirically incorrect. Secondly, it challenges the use of morphological markedness in displacement dependencies as a metric for determining the presence of syntactic ergativity in the domain of ergative extraction.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/008222
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: submitted
keywords: relativization, focus fronting, ergativity, reciprocal, parasitic gaps, crossover effects, syntactic islands, resumptive, west circassian, samoan, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v1 [June 2024]
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