Category: Faculty, General

SynSem 11/16 – Hilda Koopman

Published: November 14, 2012

**Please note! Since there is no colloquium, this Friday’s SynSem seminar will exceptionally meet from 11-1 in the conference room. **

Hilda Koopman will be presenting a (pre)practice talk for a keynote address (RALFe, Paris, November 28).

Speaker: Hilda Koopman
Date/Time: Friday, November 16, 11-1pm
Location: Campbell 2122
Title: The dance of subjects and objects, and the cases they create
Contact: Hilda Koopman


The dance of subjects and objects, and the cases they create

What makes a language ergative (absolutive) or (nominative) accusative? What properties, if any, correlate with ergativity or accusativity? How should we understand ergativity/accusativity in decompositional, derivational syntactic approaches, with late cyclic spell out and interpretation? Is there indeed a theoretical difference between inherent and structural case, or is a unified theory within reach? Why are ergative case marking languages (almost always) found in verb peripheral languages, but not in SVO languages (Mahajan 2004, 2007)? Why are certain case systems excluded?

My talk addresses these questions, taking as point of departure four syntactic puzzles from Samoan, a Polynesian VSO language with an ergative case system. I will motivate a unified analysis for these puzzles (Koopman 2008, 2012), which will be shown to fall out from the way structures are build by External and Internal Merge(movement). Crucial analytical and theoretical ingredients include a universal hierarchy for predicate decomposition (Pylkka ̈nen, 2010…), interpretative properties of different subject and object positions, internal Merge(= movement) of vP, VP shells (this is how subjects and objects get to their final positions), (inviolable) Minimality, the case filter, and a local environment for spelling out (all) case(s).
The analysis for Samoan in turn will set the stage for a new understanding of the (old) problem of accusative case marking, insights in Mahajan’s typological generalization, and moving us towards an understanding of why certain case systems are unattested.