Argument Structure

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A curious A/Ā non-interaction in Tamil double-object constructions

To Appear. Snippets. [pre-final draft, PDF]

Double object constructions (DOCs) in Norwegian (Lundquist, 2006) and Zulu (Adams, 2010) are symmetric for A- and Ā-extractions: i.e. either Recipient (R) or Theme (Th) may be passivized or wh-extracted. But a curious asymmetry arises when passivization is combined with wh-extraction: Th-wh + R-passivization is licit, but R-wh + Th-passivization is not. Holmberg et al. (2019) argue that this “Double Object Movement Asymmetry (DOMA)”, is more pervasive, applying not only to symmetric languages like Norwegian and Zulu but also asymmetric ones like Italian (Y: Th-wh & R-wh & Th-passive; N: R-passive). For Holmberg et al., DOMA follows from intervention + the PIC (Chomsky, 2001; Citko, 2014). In a Th-passive, the Theme first A-moves to the ApplP phase edge containing both Theme and Recipient, blocking subsequent Ā-movement of the Recipient to that edge, thereby making it invisible to extraction at C — analogously with subject/object extraction asymmetries with syntactic ergatives (Aldridge, 2008). In this short paper, I showcase an unexpected violation of DOMA in Tamil (Dravidian).

To Appear. The verbal domain. Eds. Roberta d’Alessandro, Ángel Gallego, and Irene Franco. Oxford University Press. 

This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion of the proper analysis of the clausal region immediately above the verb, by arguing that we need to recognize not just one or two functional heads, but a full layer of structure corresponding to Kratzer (1996)’s Voice or Chomsky (1995)’s v. This layer should include at least four functional heads arrayed above the root as shown below: Pass > Mid > Trans > Cause > √.  The primary evidence for these proposals comes from the Dravidian language Tamil, which is extremely informative due to its highly inflecting, agglutinative nature, and its flexibility in combining together distinct elements traditionally subsumed under the heading of ‘voice’. Employing standard Mirror Principle reasoning, we can use the sequences of verbal suffixes that the language supplies to argue not only for an inventory of syntactic heads, but also for a specific hierarchy, due to the rigid ordering restrictions observed.

2006. Proceedings of WCCFL 25: 390-398, University of Washington, Seattle. 

An important debate concerning alternations in ditransitive structures is whether the two alternants are derived transformationally from a single argument structure (Larson 1988, Baker 1988) or are as- sociated with two distinct argument structures (Marantz 1993, Harley 2002, Miyagawa and Tsujioka 2004, Anagnostopoulou 2003, 2005). In this paper, I investigate the argument structure of Tamil GOAL and BENEFICIARY ditransitives and offer further support for a non-derivational treatment. Specifically, I show that there is a systematic semantic alternation in goal and benefactive ditransitives in Tamil which corresponds to alternations between double-object and for/to-PP structures in English (Oehrle 1976, Harley 2002) and other languages2. In the double-object alternant, I propose that the oblique argument is introduced by an applicative head whereas, in the for/to-PP, it is contained within a P phrase which is a direct complement of the verb (Marantz 1993, Pylkkänen 2002). Finally, I show that the oblique argument introducing applicative in Tamil occurs low and not high (in the sense of Pylkkänen 2002). 

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