Abstract

Abstract:

Many languages of the Mayan family restrict the extraction of transitive (ergative) subjects for focus, wh-questions, and relativization (Ā-extraction). We follow Aissen (2017b) in labeling this restriction the ergative extraction constraint (EEC). In this article, we offer a unified account of the EEC within Mayan languages, as well as an analysis of the special construction known as agent focus (AF) used to circumvent it. Specifically, we propose that the EEC has a similar source across the subset of Mayan languages that exhibit it: intervention. The intervention problem is created when an object DP structurally intervenes between the Ā-probe on C0 and the ergative subject. Evidence that intervention by the object is the source of the problem comes from a handful of exceptional contexts that permit transitive subjects to extract in languages which normally ban this extraction, and conversely, a context that exceptionally bans ergative extraction in a language which otherwise allows it. We argue that the problem with Ā-extracting the ergative subject across the intervening object connects to the requirements of the Ā-probe on C0: the probe on C0 is bundled to search simultaneously for [Ā] and [D] features. This relates the Mayan patterns to recent proposals for extraction patterns in Austronesian languages (e.g. Legate 2014, Aldridge 2017b) and elsewhere (van Urk 2015). Specifically, adapting the proposal of Coon & Keine 2020, we argue that in configurations in which a DP object intervenes between the probe on C0 and an Ā-subject, conflicting requirements on movement lead to a derivational crash. While we propose that the EEC has a uniform source across the family, we argue that AF constructions vary Mayaninternally in how they circumvent the EEC, accounting for the variation in behavior of AF across the family. This article contributes both to our understanding of parametric variation internal to the Mayan family and to the discussion of variation in Ā-extraction asymmetries and syntactic ergativity crosslinguistically.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 269-332
Launched on MUSE
2021-06-17
Open Access
No
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