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Deconstructing ErgativityTwo Types of Ergative Languages and Their Features$
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Maria Polinsky

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190256586

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190256586.001.0001

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A paradigm PP-​ergative language

A paradigm PP-​ergative language


(p.185) Chapter 10 A paradigm PP-​ergative language
Deconstructing Ergativity

Maria Polinsky

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents a detailed discussion of several aspects of Tongan syntax that are representative of its status as a PP-ergative language. The Tongan absolutive case is assigned by v0 and shows all the properties of a structural case, while transitive subjects are expressed by a PP-ergative in the specifier of vP. There is a consistent difference between the properties of absolutive arguments and properties of ergatives in Tongan. Absolutives, but not ergatives, undergo genitive conversion in event nominalizations. Absolutives, but not ergatives, can undergo A-bar movement to the edge of the embedded subjunctive clause (ke-clause), leaving a gap at the extraction site, under relativization and topicalization. All other constituents, including the ergative, cannot undergo such A-bar movement and instead must be resumed with a dedicated form (ai for non-subjects and a subject clitic for the ergative). All told, Tongan ergatives consistently pattern with PPs, not with absolutive DPs.

Keywords:   Polynesian, Tongan, PP-ergativity, ke-clause, layered vP structure, unergative, unaccusative, A-movement, A-bar movement, verb raising

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