Thu 16 March – Elisabeth Kerr (LUCL)

Speaker: Elisabeth J. Kerr (LUCL)
Title: Tunen syntax within a structural typology of Aux-O-V word orders
Date: Thursday 16th March
Location: Lipsius 2.23
Time: 16:15-17:30

Aux-O-V word order is an interesting case of disharmonic word order, where a head-initial TP (Aux-V) dominates a head-final VP (O-V). Aux-O-V disharmony has attracted attention in the theoretical syntax literature as an instantiation of disharmonic word order compatible with the Final-Over-Final Condition (FOFC; Biberauer, Holmberg & Roberts 2014). The Aux-O-V type of disharmony has been analysed in such Kaynesian frameworks as derived through roll-up movement triggered by a formal feature on heads within the extended projection of the verb, e.g. the ^-feature in Biberauer, Holmberg & Roberts (2014), as discussed predominantly for Germanic and Uralic varieties (see a.o. Sheehan et al. 2017, Roberts 2019). Other analyses of Aux-O-V are found in the Africanist literature, where most work has been on West African languages with S-Aux-O-V-X word order, often existing in alternation with SVO (see e.g. Sande et al. 2019 for a generative overview and Creissels 2005, Güldemann 2018 a.o. for descriptive overviews).

In this talk I present my thesis work on the analysis of Aux-O-V in Tunen, the only Bantu (Niger-Congo) language with S-Aux-O-V-X as the canonical word order, found in matrix (and embedded) clauses, across tense/aspect contexts, and in multiple information-structural contexts. The empirical foundation is field data I collected in Cameroon between 2019 and 2022 as part of the Bantu Syntax and Information Structure project. I discuss the three main types of formal analyses: first, a roll-up account as previously applied to Germanic, second, an account which generates Bantu verbal morphology via head movement (e.g. Zeller 2013, van der Wal 2022), which must then be modified via object shift in order to additionally derive Tunen’s OV order (in contrast to canonical Bantu SVO), and third, a non-Kaynesian account allowing for base-generation of OV order within the VP. I then raise some challenges for discussion in choosing between these analyses, namely (i) the proper derivation of Bantu verbal morphology, (ii) accounting for Tunen’s O-V-X order, (iii) the position of subjects, and (iv) the availability of postverbal discontinuous nominal modifiers in Tunen. In showing how previous analyses of Aux-O-V must be adapted to fit the Tunen data, I reflect on the structural typology of S-Aux-O-V(-X) derivations crosslinguistically, which has implications both for understanding word order change in West/Central Africa and word order variation more broadly.

Biberauer, Theresa, Holmberg, Anders & Ian Roberts. 2014. A syntactic universal and its consequences. Linguistic Inquiry, 45(2): 169-225.
Creissels, Denis. 2005. S-O-V-X constituent order and constituent order alternations in West African languages. In Rebecca T. Cover & Yuni Kim (eds.), Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Berkeley linguistics society, 31:2, 37-52.
Güldemann, Tom. 2008. The Macro-Sudan Belt: Towards identifying a linguistic area in northern sub-Saharan Africa. In Heine, Bernd and Derek Nurse (eds.). A Linguistic Geography of Africa, 151-185, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sheehan, Michelle, Biberauer, Theresa, Holmberg, Anders & Ian Roberts (eds.). 2017. The Final-Over-Final Condition: A syntactic universal. Cambridge, Mass/London: MIT Press.
Roberts, Ian. 2019. Parameter hierarchies and Universal Grammar. Oxford: OUP.
Sande, Hannah, Baier, Nico & Peter Jenks. 2019. The syntactic diversity of SAuxOV in West Africa. In Clem, Emily, Jenks, Peter and Hannah Sande (eds.). Theory and description in African linguistics: Selected papers from the 47th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, 667-701, Berlin: Language Science Press.
van der Wal, Jenneke. 2022. A featural typology of Bantu agreement. Oxford: OUP.
Zeller, Jochen. 2013. In defence of head movement: Evidence from Bantu. In Cheng, Lisa and Norbert Corver (editors), Diagnosing syntax, 87-111, Oxford: OUP

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