Head-marking and dependent-marking grammar
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HEAD-MARKING AND DEPENDENT-MARKING GRAMMAR Johanna Nichols University of California, Berkeley Morphological marking of grammatical relations may appear on either the head or the dependent memberofthe constituent (or on both, or on neither). Grammatical relations— and whole languages—may be classified according to their propensity for using one of these types of marking. Implicational relations among various marking patterns can be stated: languages display a tendency to use one type consistently throughout their grammar . The difference in patterns provides a typological metric and a functional explanation for certain word-order preferences. For historical linguistics, it provides a diagnostically conservative feature and a clue to genetic relatedness. Although the head-marked pattern is cross-linguistically favored, grammatical theory is strongly biased toward the dependent -marked patterns that happen to dominate in Indo-European.* 1. Introduction. This paper points out a simple descriptive fact which has considerable implications for typology, historical linguistics, and grammatical theory. In view of the breadth and depth of its implications, it is surprising that this phenomenon has gone unnoticed for so long. One reason for such neglect may lie in the fact that it is easily observed and described in dependency grammar , but is less obvious to the constituency grammar that forms the backbone of contemporary mainstream Western theory. Another reason may be the fact that mainstream theory, despite considerable efforts to test ideas on exotic languages, happens to have looked almost exclusively at those languages which differ little from Indo-European with regard to the phenomenon at issue. The analysis proposed here is built on only two concepts, both of them straightforward and non-theoretical. One is headedness, a theory-independent notion which in fact figures as a primitive in almost all theories—and which, although not directly given in linguistic data, is often directly reflected in such structural features as word order. The other is the presence and location of overt morphological marking of syntactic relations—the fact that a given word bears a given affix, while another does not. The presence and location of morphological markers is directly given in linguistic data. The grammatical phenomenon at issue is the fact that syntactic relations can * Much of the research for this project was done in Moscow (1975-76) and Tbilisi (1979-80, 1981, 1984) with the support of International Research and Exchanges Board and Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad fellowships from the Office of Education and the then Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. I am grateful to the Russian Language Department of Moscow State University and to the Foreign Division and the Caucasian Languages Department of Tbilisi State University. Deepest thanks go to the friends and colleagues who shared with me their native intuitions on languages of the Caucasus. For comments and examples, I am indebted to Joan Bresnan, Neusa Carson, Jim Collins, Jon Dayley, Scott DeLancey, Matthew Dryer, Thomas V. Gamkrelidze, Orin Gensler, Victor Golla, Dee Ann Holisky, Gary Holland, John Kingston, Tom Larsen, Maya Machavariani, Igor Mel'cuk, Larry Morgan, Catherine O'Connor, David Shaul, Alan Timberlake, Robert Van Valin, Kenneth Whistler, Anthony Woodbury, and Karl Zimmer. I am also grateful to Ann Kalinowski for statistical consultation and Kenneth Whistler for programming. My thanks should not be taken to imply that these people unanimously endorse all my views. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1982 LSA Annual Meeting (San Diego). 56 HEAD-MARKING AND DEPENDENT-MARKING GRAMMAR57 be morphologically marked either on the head of a constituent, or on the dependent . Exx. 1-2 are a minimal pair in this respect. Both are noun phrases with possessed noun heads and possessor dependent nouns. Here and below, heads are indicated by superscript H, affixal markers by M: (1)Englishthe man-M's Hhouse (2)Hungarian az ember Hház-Ma the manhouse-3sg. In 1, the possessive construction is marked by the genitive case on the dependent noun man. In 2, it is marked by a pronominal suffix on the head noun haz 'house'. The syntactic relation is one and the same—possessor noun dependent on possessed noun—but the principles for marking that relation morphologically are diametrically opposed. Throughout this paper, I will use the term 'syntactic...