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A Microparametric Approach to Syncretisms in Nominal Inflection
Heather Bliss and Will Oxford
67-76 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Based on a survey of syncretisms in nominal inflection across the Algonquian languages, we propose that inflectional syncretisms are conditioned by syntactic scope: the neutralization of contrast A can be conditioned by contrast B only if A scopes over B in the syntax. Under this model, variation in the conditioning of syncretisms across the Algonquian languages can be used to diagnose microparametric variation in the structure of the DP. The syncretism diagnostic divides the languages into two main groups: those in which number scopes over obviation (e.g. Meskwaki) and those in which obviation scopes over number (e.g. Blackfoot). We show that this structural difference correctly predicts a variety of other morphosyntactic differences between the two groups of languages: (1) the content of reduced nominal phrases (φP); (2) the syntactic function of number marking; and (3) the existence of further syncretisms.

Published in

Proceedings of the 33rd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Kyeong-min Kim, Pocholo Umbal, Trevor Block, Queenie Chan, Tanie Cheng, Kelli Finney, Mara Katz, Sophie Nickel-Thompson, and Lisa Shorten
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Printed edition: $375.00