Thursday 19 November – Anna Volkova

Speaker: Anna Volkova (Higher School of Economics (Moscow) & Utrecht University)
Title: Locally bound possessives in Mordvin languages 
Date: Thursday 19 November
Venue: Van Wijkplaats 3/006
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

Reuland (2011) and Despic  (2011, forthcoming) propose the following correlation between the prevalence of dedicated reflexives and definiteness marking: Languages without prenominal definite articles employ dedicated reflexive possessives while languages with prenominal definite articles employ simple pronominals. The question is, then, why this would be so, and whether more basic properties of the computational system underlie this correlation. In my talk I contrast data on the use of locally bound possessives in two Mordvin languages: Shoksha Erzya and Moksha. Neither language has prenominal definite articles, hence in both one would expect to find a dedicated reflexive possessive. In Moksha, indeed, a dedicated reflexive possessive es’ is used to encode this relation (1), while in Shoksha Erzya a genitive form of a pronominal is employed (2).

(1)  Son      kel’k-si                            es’         c’ora-nc.
       S/he     love-npst-3sg.s.3sg.s  self
She loves her son. (Moksha)

(2)  Son       aj-n’ijh-sa-za                               sons’inde       brat-t.
       S/he     ipf-see-prs-3sg.o.3sg.s             s/he.intf.gen  brother-def.gen
He sees his brother. (Shoksha Erzya)

Moksha es’ is feature deficient in number and person (which is complemented by the obligatory presence of a possessive marker on the head noun), unlike the pronominal in Shoksha Erzya. The question is then, what could explain the difference, and what it entails for the Despic-Reuland conjecture. I argue that the relevant factor is not the presence of a DP shell on the object NP per se, but that a broader range of intervening factors enters into an explanation.

Despic, Miloje. 2011. Syntax in the Absence of Determiner Phrase. PhD dissertation, University of Connecticut.
Despic, Miloje. Forthcoming. Phases, Reflexives and Definiteness. Syntax.
Reuland, Eric. 2011. Anaphora and Language Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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