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Bookmark and Share Paper 3413

Voice-less Unergatives: Evidence from Algonquian
Rebecca Tollan and Will Oxford
399-408 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper examines the patterning of unergative verbs in Algonquian in view of recent proposals that distinguish the verbalizing head v from the agent-introducing head Voice (e.g., Pylkkänen 2002; Harley 2013; Legate 2014). While subjects of unergative verbs are often treated as structurally akin to subjects of transitive verbs, Massam (2009) proposes that the two types of subjects differ: transitive subjects are introduced in the specifier of VoiceP while unergative subjects are merged lower, in the specifier of vP. Using a series of language-internal diagnostics for the presence of v and Voice, we argue that Algonquian languages strongly support Massam's proposal: unergative predicates involve only vP structure while transitive predicates exhibit the morphosyntatic properties associated with the presence of VoiceP. Instead of aligning with full-fledged transitive verbs, unergative verbs consistently pattern with a small class of defective "pseudo-transitives," which also lack VoiceP morphosyntax. Across all diagnostics, the evidence consistently indicates that the Algonquian extended verbal projection consists of vP and VoiceP in full transitive clauses, but of only vP in unergatives.

Published in

Proceedings of the 35th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Wm. G. Bennett, Lindsay Hracs, and Dennis Ryan Storoshenko
Table of contents
Printed edition: $395.00