Thursday 15 March – Jenneke van der Wal

Speaker: Jenneke van der Wal (Leiden University)
Title: Topic-based flexible nominal licensing in Bantu
Date: Thursday 15 March
Venue: Van Wijkplaats 2/002
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

Two typical Bantu syntactic characteristics are subject inversion and symmetrical double objects, which are both problematic for current theories of Case and agreement. I propose that both can be captured using a new concept of flexible licensing by low functional heads (Appl and v), connected to topicality.

In subject inversion the logical subject appears postverbally and a preverbal locative/patient/instrument agrees with the verb (-zi- in 1):
(1) Inzogá nti-zi-nywá abáana.
9.alcohol NEG-9SM-drink 2.children
‘It’s the children who do not drink alcohol.’ Kinyarwanda (Ngoboka 2016: 356)

In double object symmetry, either object of a ditransitive (recipient or theme) can be passivised and either can be object-marked (OM) on the verb (2):
(2) a. U-mama u-ba-nik-e in-cwadi (aba-ntwana).
1a-mama 1SM-2OM-give-PFV 9-book 2-children
‘Mama gave them a book (the children).’
b. U-mama u-yi-nik-e aba-ntwana (in-cwadi).
1a-mama 1SM-9OM-give-PFV 2-children 9-book
‘Mama gave the children it (a book).’ Zulu (Adams 2010: 11)

The challenge is how T (for inversion) or v (for object marking) can agree with a lower Goal (theme) across a higher one (subject or benefactive), given standard non-intervention locality restrictions on Agree. I explore the hypothesis that the intervening argument can be licensed by the head that introduces it (v or Appl), if and only if it is non-topical. This allows the higher head to probe past it (assuming no defective intervention).

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