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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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Taking stock

Taking stock

(p.347) Chapter 12 Taking stock
Deconstructing Ergativity

Maria Polinsky

Oxford University Press

This chapter reiterates the main idea developed in this book: in some languages, the ergative argument is a prepositional phrase, base-generated in the specifier of the transitive v. The prepositional nature of that ergative expression accounts for a range of properties that would be unexpected if it were a DP: it cannot undergo A-movement, such as raising; it is an island for subextraction; its ability to determine verbal agreement is limited and is parasitic on agreement with a DP; it cannot bind other elements in the clause the way a DP would be able to bind them. Crucially, all these characteristics are correlated with and follow from the PP nature of the ergative. Understood within this context, syntactic ergativity becomes just one symptom of a language design according to which transitive verbs have PP-subjects, not DPs in the subject position.

Keywords:   PP-ergative, DP-ergative, diagnostics of ergativity, syntactic ergativity, morphological ergativity, historical change

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