Academic journal article Linguistic Discovery

Referential Hierarchies in Three-Participant Constructions in Blackfoot: The Effects of Animacy, Person, and Specificity

Academic journal article Linguistic Discovery

Referential Hierarchies in Three-Participant Constructions in Blackfoot: The Effects of Animacy, Person, and Specificity

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Even a cursory glance at the grammatical sketch of any Algonquian language reveals the crucial role played in its fundamental structures by gender, person, and obviation. (2) The interplay between the direct/inverse opposition in transitive clauses and obviation status on the one hand and nominal hierarchies on the other has attracted sustained attention of both Algonquian studies and the typological literature. Nevertheless, ditransitive clauses (or, more generally, three-participant constructions) in Algonquian languages have been addressed from a typological point of view only comparatively recently (cf. e.g. Rhodes 2010a). Against this background, the present article makes a contribution to our knowledge of the effects of referential and lexical factors on the encoding of three-participant constructions in Blackfoot. As far as referential factors are concerned, it is particularly interesting to take into account the role of the specific/non-specific distinction, which is overtly marked in the language via a dedicated nominal suffix. In addition, we will show how lexical factors, i.e. the occurrence of specific verb stems, interact with referential factors in the encoding of Blackfoot three- participant constructions.

Some notes on the terminology employed in this paper are in order here. The term index means 'bound/dependent person marker'; Algonquian indexes in general, and Blackfoot indexes in particular, do not require the presence of an overt controller in the same construction and will be said to index or cross-reference their arguments. (3) With respect to grammatical relations, note that Rhodes (2010b) postulates subject, primary object, secondary object, and relative root complement as non-oblique arguments for the Algonquian language called Ojibwe, and we follow him here for Blackfoot. Unlike their Ojibwe counterparts, however, Blackfoot verbs do not cross-reference secondary objects (i.e., only subjects and primary objects, which we call core arguments here, are indexed on the verb). Lastly, following common Algonquianist practice, transitivity is mostly utilized here as a term referring to the indexing capacity of verb morphology, viz. intransitives cross-reference only one argument and transitives cross-reference two. Mismatches between morphological and syntactic transitivity are especially relevant in the context of this article, as will become apparent further down. (4)

All examples are from original data (elicitation and spontaneous narrative) contributed by the first author unless otherwise noted. Some surface form spellings from Frantz (2009) and Frantz and Russell (1995) have been corrected to align with the first author's pronunciation; this does not affect the interpretation of the morphological structure of the examples. The first line corresponds to the surface form; the morphemes in the second line are basically underlying forms (but tsi [

The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 outlines the basics of the relevant Blackfoot morphology and syntax in simple one-participant and two-participant constructions. Section 3 presents in detail how different slots of the Blackfoot verbal complex (so- called finals, theme signs, person markers, and relative roots) interact with syntactic arguments of the clause in three-participant constructions according to their values for the parameters of gender (i.e., the animate/inanimate opposition), person, topicality, and specificity. Section 4 closes the paper with the main conclusions to be drawn, as well as with suggestions for further research.

2. Background on Blackfoot

The westernmost Algonquian language is spoken by approximately 5,000 people on four reserves/reservations in Southern Alberta (Canada) and Northern Montana (USA). It has pitch accent and phonemic segment length, complex and numerous morphophonological regularities, and an intricate polysynthetic morphology (Frantz 1970, 2009; Taylor 1969; Uhlenbeck 1938). …

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