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Verbal Morphological Syncretism in an Ergative Language
Jenny Lee
266-275 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper provides a syntactic account of middle marking in Ranmo (Papuan), an instance of morphological verbal syncretism, which refers to the phenomenon in which distinct syntactic alternations (reflexive, anticausative, etc.) are realized with identical morphology. It has been proposed that the single structural factor uniting the syncretic constructions in many (well-studied) languages (e.g., Greek) is unaccusative syntax (i.e., the lack of an external argument). Such accounts additionally posit morphological feature insertion in the post-syntactic component to capture the distribution of the syncretism (e.g., Embick 1998). In this paper, I propose an alternative account of morphological syncretism based on Ranmo data. Syntactic alternations resulting in voice syncretism in this language reflect (i) differences in the featural makeup of the object nominal rather than the Morphology's sensitivity to a particular syntactic configuration and (ii) a peculiarity in the syntactic derivation (i.e., failed agreement) rather than an instance of dissociation (i.e., the post-syntactic introduction of a feature that is absent in the syntax). Therefore, I conclude that voice syncretisms have heterogeneous sources crosslinguistically.

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
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00