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Ergativity cover


Argument Structure and Grammatical Relations

Christopher D. Manning

This volume considers and examines some of the phenomena that have led languages to be considered ‘ergative’. Languages considered 'ergative' have only been sparsely studied, and many fundamental questions in their analysis seem at best incompletely answered. This volume fills that void by focusing on some of the basic issues: when ergativity should be analyzed as syntactic or morphological; whether languages can be divided into two classes of syntactically and morphologically ergative languages, and if so where the division should be drawn; and whether ergative arguments are always core roles or not.

Christopher Manning's codification of syntactic approaches to dealing with ergative languages is based on a hypothesis he terms the ‘Inverse Grammatical Relations hypothesis.’ This hypothesis adopts a framework that decouples prominence at the levels of grammatical relations and argument structure. The result is two notions of subject: grammatical subject and argument structure subject and a uniform analysis of syntactically ergative and Philippine languages. These language groups, the syntactically ergative and Philippine languages, allow an inverse mapping in the prominence of the two highest terms between argument structure and grammatical relations. A level of argument structure is shown to be particularly well motivated by the examination of syntactically ergative languages. A study of Inuit, Tagalog, and Dyirbal shows that constraints on imperative addressee and controllee selection, antecedent of anaphors, and the controller of certain adverbial clauses are universally sensitive to argument structure. Thus, these phenomena are always accusative or neutral, explaining why passive agents and causes can generally bind reflexives. However, constraints on relativization, topicalization, focusing or questioning, specificity or wide scope, coreferential omission in coordination, etc. are shown to be universally sensitive to grammatical relations. Examining just these phenomena, which are sensitive to grammatical relations, it becomes evident that many languages are indeed syntactically ergative, and so must be countenanced by linguistic theory.

This volume combines good scholarship with innovative ideas into an important work that will appeal to a wide range of linguists and scholars.

Christopher D. Manning was a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney at the time of this publication.


  • Preface
  • Transcriptions, abbreviations, and conventions
  • 1 Cutting the ergativity pie
    • 1.1 What is ergativity?
      • 1.1.1 Anderson (1976)
      • 1.1.2 Dixon (1979)
      • 1.1.3 The scarcity of syntactically ergative languages
    • 1.2 Towards a new typology of mixed-pivot languages
      • 1.2.1 Tagalog
      • 1.2.2 Inuit
      • 1.2.3 Notions of ‘subject’
      • 1.2.4 Historical origins
      • 1.2.5 Word order: a necessary digression
    • 1.3 Other languages for which an inverse analysis seems correct
      • 1.3.1 Mayan languages
      • 1.3.2 Chukchi
      • 1.3.3 Indonesian languages: Balinese and Toba Batak
      • 1.3.4 Tsimshian languages
      • 1.3.5 Nadëb
      • 1.3.6 Summary
    • 1.4 Theoretical foundations
      • 1.4.1 Grammatical relations and argument structure
      • 1.4.2 Approaches to ergativity
      • 1.4.3 Argument projection, linking, and valence changing operations
      • 1.4.4 HPSG
      • 1.4.5 The four underlying primitive model
    • 1.5 An analysis of binding
      • 1.5.1 Binding in Tagalog
      • 1.5.2 Binding in Inuit
      • 1.5.3 Echoes in accusative languages
    • 1.6 Dyirbal
      • 1.6.1 Evidence compatible with an S/O pivot
      • 1.6.2 An apparent problem
      • 1.6.3 The oblique analysis of Dyirbal
    • 1.7 Observations perhaps not requiring structureal explanations
      • 1.7.1 Ergative case marking in syntactically accusatives
      • 1.7.2 Absence of syntactically ergative, morphologically accusative languages
      • 1.7.3 Absence of antipassive in syntactically accusative languages
    • 1.8 Conclusions

  • 2 Inuit (West Greenlandic)
    • 2.1 Basic background on Inuit
      • 2.1.1 Genetic affiliation
      • 2.1.2 Case Marking and case markedness
      • 2.1.3 Word Order
      • 2.1.4 Termhood, passive and antipassive
    • 2.2 Arguments for the absolutive being a surface pivot
      • 2.2.1 Relative cluses
      • 2.2.2 Semantic scope/specificity
      • 2.2.3 Nominalization
      • 2.2.4 Coordination
      • 2.2.5 Order of agreement suffices on verbs
      • 2.2.6 Conclusion
    • 2.3 Phenomena sensitive to a level of argument structure
      • 2.3.1 Derivational morphology
      • 2.3.2 The Inuit ‘infinitive’
      • 2.3.3 Binding phenomena
      • 2.3.4 Imperatives
      • 2.3.5 Expressive adjectival postbases
      • 2.3.6 Summary
    • 2.4 Approaches to Inuit
      • 2.4.1 Johnson (1980) on Central Arctic Eskimo
      • 2.4.2 Marantz (1984) and Levin (1983)
      • 2.4.3 Three GB analyses
      • 2.4.4 Bobaljik (1993) and his precursors
      • 2.4.5 Sadock (1994)

  • Sources of Examples
  • Bibliography
  • Index


ISBN (Paperback): 1575860368 (9781575860367)
ISBN (Cloth): 1575860376 (9781575860374)
ISBN (Electronic): 1575868512 (9781575868516)
Subject: Linguistics; Ergative Constructions; Grammar--Syntax

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