Argument Licensing and Agreement

Argument Licensing and Agreement

Argument Licensing and Agreement

Argument Licensing and Agreement

Synopsis

The strikingly unrestricted syntactic distribution of nouns in many Bantu languages often leads to proposals that syntactic case does not play an active role in the grammar of Bantu. This book offers a different conclusion that the basis of Zulu that Bantu languages have not only a system of structural case, but also a complex system of morphological case that is comparable to systems found in languages like Icelandic. By comparing the system of argument licensing found in Zulu to those found in more familiar languages, Halpert introduces a number of insights onto the organization of the grammar. First, while this book argues in favor of a case-licensing analysis of Zulu, it locates the positions where case is assigned lower in the clause than what is found in nominative-accusative languages. In addition, Zulu shows evidence that case and agreement are two distinct operations in the language, located on different heads and operating independently of each other. Despite these unfamiliarities, there is evidence that the timing relationships between operations mirror those found in other languages. Second, this book proposes a novel type of morphological case that serves to mask many structural licensing effects in Zulu; the effects of this case are unfamiliar, Halpert argues that its existence is expected given the current typological picture of case. Finally, this book explores the consequences of case and agreement as dissociated operations, showing that given this situation, other unusual properties of Bantu languages, such as hyper-raising, are a natural result. This exploration yields the conclusion that some of the more unusual properties of Bantu languages in fact result from small amounts of variation to deeply familiar syntactic principles such as case, agreement, and the EPP.

Excerpt

A central concern of this book is the syntactic factors that govern the distribution of nominals in Zulu. in particular, which syntactic properties are responsible for the surface differences that we find between a Zulu-type language and one with a more familiar structural case-driven system? in chapters 3–6 I investigate a number of interactions between the distribution of Zulu nominals and their ability to agree with verbs that will allow us to identify the relevant factors that yield the variation we find between Zulu and other Bantu languages, and between Bantu and non-Bantu languages more generally. To analyze these constructions, we must first develop a solid understanding of the different syntactic positions available to nominals in Zulu and of the different agreement properties associated with these positions. This chapter provides a foundation for our investigation, establishing which syntactic positions are typically available to Zulu nominals and what the constraints on and consequences of appearing in such positions are. As we will see, the syntactic position of the subject correlates with both agreement patterns and information structure. This intersection between syntactic position and information structure will be crucial when we consider the restricted distribution of certain nominals in chapter 3 and when we examine the properties of non-agreeing preverbal subjects in chapter 6. in addition to addressing the basic syntactic constituencies associated with particular subject positions, I also address the nature of the morphological dependency between the verb and the subject. I argue in favor of treating the subject marker as the result of syntactic agreement between T and a nominal in Spec, TP—and not as a pronominal clitic. This distinction allows us to better understand the relationship between phi-agreement with subjects . . .

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