The paper adduces evidence for the morphological ergativity of all Neo-Aramaic dialects of the North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic (NENA) group, a Semitic language spoken by Jewish and Christian communities originating in the border areas of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. We show that determining the ergativity of a language cannot be based automatically on the marking of the intransitive subject as different from the transitive subject. Some NENA dialects are Extended-Ergative; i.e., they mark intransitive and transitive subjects alike. Yet these subjects have other characteristics that distinguish them, and therefore Extended-Ergative dialects should be considered ergative, not nominative-accusative. The marking of the intransitive subject as object is but one characteristic of ergativity, albeit the best known one. Ergativity should be judged by the totality of the ergativity syndrome, of which agreement reversal and subject drop are important symptoms. According to our findings, ergativity is a wider phenomenon than has generally been recognized.
Proceedings of the 29th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Jaehoon Choi, E. Alan Hogue, Jeffrey Punske, Deniz Tat, Jessamyn Schertz, and Alex Trueman
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