Linguistics Department

Colloquium - Judith Aissen (UC Santa Cruz) "Partial agreement in Tzotzil"

Mon, February 25, 2013 | CLA 1.302B

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

The general rule is that agreement in number is obligatory for 1st and 2nd persons in Tzotzil (Mayan). However, there are contexts in which number need not be marked, or is even preferably omitted. (I call this `partial’ agreement because person is always obligatorily marked.) Roughly, omission of number marking is possible when the plurality of the same referent is marked on a distinct `nearby’ element. The main descriptive issue addressed here is what ‘nearby’ means. Does it reference a superficial kind of proximity (e.g. linear or prosodic) or is it sensitive to a deeper sort of proximity (e.g. syntactic), or is it sensitive to both?

The main goal of this talk will be to show that while Tzotzil partial agreement looks like a superficial phenomenon, it is fundamentally syntactic in nature, i.e. the possibility of partial agreement is determined by locality conditions which are purely syntactic. A secondary goal will be to suggest that prosodic proximity may play a role in determining the preference or dis-preference for partial agreement when this option is made available by the syntax. If it is correct that both the syntax and the post-syntax play a role in Tzotzil partial agreement, then this phenomenon may shed some light on the more general division of labor between syntax and morphology in determining morphological agreement.

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