In this paper, I address a puzzle about the alignment between ergative/absolutive Case and grammatical relations found in the accusative side of the ergative splits of some Mayan languages (= Kaqchikel, Q'anjob'al and Chol). In the accusative alignment pattern of Kaqchikel, the intransitive subject and the transitive subject alike are cross-referenced by the absolutive morpheme. On the other hand, the object of a transitive verb is cross-referenced by the ergative morpheme: a cross-linguistically rare alignment pattern. In contrast, other ergative split languages within Mayan such as Chol and Q'anjob'al display a very different alignment pattern in their nominative-accusative side. In these languages, both the intransitive subject and the transitive subject are cross-referenced by the ergative morpheme, while the absolutive morpheme cross-references the transitive object. To explain the contrastive alignment patterns, I propose that ergative Case may be assigned as a default to an otherwise Case-less DP. If this analysis is correct, one can conclude that there is no a priori reason to posit a correlation between ergative Case and grammatical relations in certain languages.
Proceedings of the 32nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Ulrike Steindl, Thomas Borer, Huilin Fang, Alfredo García Pardo, Peter Guekguezian, Brian Hsu, Charlie O'Hara, and Iris Chuoying Ouyang Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-466-9 library binding
vii + 351 pages
publication date: 2015
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA