Tseltal Clause Structure

Kirill Shklovsky, 2012

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This dissertation examines the syntax of clausal structure in Tseltal (Mayan) with a particular focus on agreement phenomena. The first domain of investigation is the External Possession Construction, in which the clausal agreement is controlled by a possessor of the internal argument, rather than by the internal argument itself. It is argued that clausal phi-agreement can target nominals embedded in other noun phrases if the head of the embedding phrase incorporates into the verbal complex. It is further claimed that this type of long-distance agreement arises when other potential agreement controllers are evacuated or otherwise made unavailable.

The second kind of long-distance phi-agreement investigated involves non-finite complement clauses. This portion of the thesis examines the relationship between case opacity, agreement, and Person Case Constraint (PCC). It is argued that an ergative language like Tseltal exhibits object-to-subject raising, the counterpart to subject-to- subject raising in languages like English. The distribution of non-third person objects in non-finite clauses is explained as a consequence of interactions between long-distance agreement and case opacity. It is argued that case opacity is subject to parametric variation, and that this variation predicts some of the ergative splits attested cross- linguistically.

The final portion of this thesis considers the nature of ellipsis and polar answers in Tseltal. It is argued that in Tseltal only focus constructions can trigger ellipsis. In focus clauses, an XP constituent or a head in the extended VP is attracted to the left periphery of the clause. It is argued that the movement to focus position is mediated by agreement relations, although in contrast to the preceding chapters, the agreement relations considered here are not long-distance, and in some cases are very local. The case of maximally local agreement is argued to differentiate between the realization of narrow focus and broad focus in Tseltal.