Prosody of V1 languages
My dissertation addresses the derivation of verb-initial word orders from the perspective of prosody. Drawing primarily from Niuean (Polynesian) data, I argue that VOS can arise in an otherwise VSO language in order to satisfy a prosodic well-formedness constraint, which I call the Argument Condition on Phonological Phrasing (Arg-φ). Jessica Coon and I replicated the Niuean study for Ch'ol (Mayan), where we find that the verb and the object form a prosodic constituent in VOS structures. We've developed a head raising account of Mayan V1 that is consistent with morpheme order in the verb stem, the distribution of preverbal arguments, and VSO/VOS alternations in Ch'ol.
- Paper: Clemens (2021)
Looking at the Tongic Polynesian languages, Rebecca Tollan and I apply an absolutive inversion approach to case assignment to explain why Tongan (but not Niuean) display syntactic ergativity and why Tongan (but not Niuean) show true VSO~VOS alternations.Extending our account of syntactic ergativity beyond the Polynesian languages, we developed an account of syntactic ergativity based on the grammaticalization of a processing constraint against crossing dependencies (e.g. Kuno and Robinson 1972). We propose that restrictions on the A'-movement of the ergative subject arise because such movement would cross the prior A-movement path of the absolutive object.
- Paper: Tollan and Clemens (2022)