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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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Alternative accounts of variation across ergative languages

Alternative accounts of variation across ergative languages

(p.160) Chapter 9 Alternative accounts of variation across ergative languages
Deconstructing Ergativity

Maria Polinsky

Oxford University Press

Several alternative explanations for syntactic ergativity are examined: a comp-trace analysis, a criterial freezing analysis, a phase-based analysis, and a processing analysis. The alternative syntactic approaches are shown to make incorrect predictions and differ from the proposed approach by being unable to capture a wider variety of characteristics associated with the PP-ergative type. In addition to being more comprehensive, the PP-ergative approach is the most theory-neutral and requires fewer theoretical assumptions than the other approaches considered here. A processing approach attributes syntactic ergativity (i.e., the impossibility of extracting the ergative with a gap) to the difficulty imposed on the parser by the corresponding structures. Initial evidence from processing experiments in several ergative languages indicates that this approach is untenable.

Keywords:   comp-trace effect, phase-based approach, freezing, experimental syntax, sentence processing, grammaticalization

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