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Sources of (A)symmetry in Bantu Double Object Constructions
Mark C. Baker, Ken Safir, and Justine Sikuku
54-64 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


It is well known that some Bantu languages (Kinyarwanda, Kichaga) show "symmetrical object" behavior in double object constructions, including causatives and applicatives, whereas other Bantu languages (Kiswahili, Chichewa) show asymmetrical object behavior with respect to word order, passive, and pronominal object markers attached to the verb. In this work, the authors show that the Lubukusu language of Western Kenya behaves like a symmetrical object language, except when one of its objects is a local (first or second person) pronoun. Whereas applicative constructions behave symmetrically even if they have a local pronoun argument, a Chichewa-like asymmetry appears in causative constructions, such that the local pronoun can be interpreted as the causee but not as the theme when it is immediately after the verb, or when it is in the subject position of the passive verb, or when it is the object marker prefixed to the verb. The authors explain this surprising difference using two crucial assumptions. First, they argue that the complement of the causative head is a vP (a phase), whereas the complement of the applicative is a VP (not a phase), so that movement internal to the verb phrase is more restricted in the first than in the second. Second, they propose a new Phase Edge Prominence Condition, which states that two NPs at the edge of a phase cannot compete for prominence along different dimensions (the person-animacy hierarchy, the thematic hierarchy). They conclude by showing that this new condition also has value in predicting a restriction on Object-Subject Reversal in Kirundi, and in forcing passive when the thematic object is a local pronoun in Southern Tiwa and similar languages.

Published in

Proceedings of the 30th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Nathan Arnett and Ryan Bennett
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00