Warlpiri: Theoretical Implications

J. A. Legate, 2002

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The issue of non-configurationality is fundamental in determining the possible range of variation in Universal Grammar. This dissertation investigates this issue in the context of Warlpiri, the prototypical non-configurational language. I argue that positing a macroparameter, a single parameter that distinguishes configurational languages from non-configurational, requires variation on a magnitude not permitted by Universal Grammar. After refuting in detail previous macroparametric approaches, I propose a microparametric analysis: non-configurational languages are fully configurational and analysed through finegrained parameters with independent motivation. I develop this approach for Warlpiri, partially on the basis of new data collected through work with Warlpiri consultants and analysis of Warlpiri texts.

Beginning with A-syntax, I show that Warlpiri exhibits short-distance A-scrambling through binding and WCO data. I present an analysis of split ergativity in Warlpiri (ergative/absolutive case-marking, nominative/accusative agreement), deriving the split from a dissociation of structural case and its morphological realization, and the inherent nature of ergative case, rather than from non-configurationality. Extending the analysis to applicative constructions in Warlpiri, I identify both symmetric and asymmetric applicatives. I argue that the principled distinctions between them are explained structurally rather than lexically; therefore the applicative data provide evidence for a hierarchical verb phrase in Warlpiri. The analysis also reveals the first reported evidence for unaccusativity in the language.

Turning to A'-syntax, I argue that word order is not free in Warlpiri; rather Warlpiri displays an articulated left peripheral structure. Thus, word order variations are largely determined by positioning of elements in ordered functional projections based on information structure. Furthermore, I present evidence from WCO and island effects that elements appear in these projections through movement. Finally, I investigate the wh-scope marking construction, arguing for an indirect dependency approach. In developing the analysis, I argue, contrary to standard assumptions, that Warlpiri does have embedded finite complement clauses. On the basis of a poverty of the stimulus argument, I conclude the construction must follow from independent properties of the language. I propose that it follows from the discontinuous constituent construction, which I equate with split DPs/PPs in Germanic and Slavic languages.

The syntactic structure of Warlpiri that emerges from the dissertation strongly supports a configurational analysis of the language, and thereby the microparameter approach to nonconfigurationality.

Thesis Supervisor: Noam Chomsky

Title: Institute Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy

Thesis Supervisor: Sabine Iatridou

Title: Professor of Linguistics

Table of Contents
1 Introduction 12
2 Nonconfigurationality 15
2.1 Introduction 15
2.2 Basic Properties 16
2.3 Analyses 20
  2.3.1 Dual Structure 21
  2.3.2 Pronominal Argument 27
  2.3.3 Secondary Predicate 35
  2.3.4 Conclusion 39
2.4 Issues and Arguments I: Dual Structure 39
2.5 Issues and Arguments II: Pronominal Argument 47
  2.5.1 Arguments for the PAH 47
  2.5.2 Arguments against the PAH 70
  2.5.3 Summary 89
2.6 Issues and Arguments III: Secondary Predicate 90
2.7 Towards a Microparameteric Account 97
2.8 Conclusion 117
3 A-syntax 118
3.1 Introduction 118
3.2 Split-Ergativity 119
  3.2.1 The Grammatical Subject 120
  3.2.2 Split Absolutive 128
  3.2.3 Typology 139
  3.2.4 Previous Analyses 144
  3.2.5 Ergativity and Nonconfigurationality 153
  3.2.6 Conclusions 158
3.3 Applicatives 159
  3.3.1 Ditransitives 160
  3.3.2 Ethical Datives 165
  3.3.3 Implications 167
  3.3.4 A Structural Account 170
  3.3.5 Additional Evidence 178
  3.3.6 Conclusion 189
3.4 Conclusion 189
4 A'-syntax 191
4.1 Introduction 191
4.2 Left Periphery 191
  4.2.1 Topics 197
  4.2.2 Wh-phrases and Foci 203
  4.2.3 Heads 209
4.3 Movement versus Base-generation 213
4.4 Interpretation of Focus 222
4.5 Wh-scope Marking 229
  4.5.1 Basic Properties 231
  4.5.2 Previous Analyses 235
  4.5.3 Warlpiri Background 246
  4.5.4 Warlpiri wh-scope marking 264
  4.5.5 Summary 267
5 Conclusion 269