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Title: Warlpiri: Theoretical Implications
Authors: Legate, Julie Anne
Keywords: Australian Indigenous Languages
Pama-Nyungan Languages
Issue Date: 2002
Publisher: MIT
Abstract: The issue of non-configurationality is fundamental in determining the possible range of variation in Universal Grammar. This dissertation investigates this issue in the context of Warlpiri, the prototypical non configurational language. I argue that positing a macroparameter, a single parameter that distinguishes configurational languages from non-con-figurational, requires variation on a magnitude not permitted by Universal Grammar. After refuting in detail previous macroparametric approaches, I propose a microparametric analysis: non-configurational languages are fully configurational and analysed through finegrained parameters with independent motivation. I develop this approach for Warlpiri, partially on the basis of new data collected through work with Warlpiri consultants and analysis of Warlpiri texts. Beginning with A-syntax, I show that Warlpiri exhibits short-distance A-scrambling through binding and WCO data. I present an analysis of split ergativity in Warlpiri (ergative- /absolutive case-marking, nominative/accusative agreement), deriving the split from a dissociation of structural case and its morphological realization, and the inherent nature of ergative case, rather than from non-configurationality. Extending the analysis to applicative constructions in Warlpiri, I identify both symmetric and asymmetric applicatives. I argue that the principled distinctions between them are explained structurally rather than lexically; therefore the applicative data provide evidence for a hierarchical verb phrase in Warlpiri. The analysis also reveals the first reported evidence for unaccusativity in the language. Turning to A’-syntax, I argue that word order is not free in Warlpiri; rather Warlpiri displays an articulated left peripheral structure. Thus, word order variations are largely determined by positioning of elements in ordered functional projections based on information structure. Furthermore, I present evidence from WCO and island effects that elements appear in these projections through movement. Finally, I investigate the wh-scope marking construction, arguing for an indirect dependency approach. In developing the analysis, I argue, contrary to standard assumptions, that Warlpiri does have embedded finite complement clauses. On the basis of a poverty of the stimulus argument, I conclude the construction must follow from independent properties of the language. I propose that it follows from the discontinuous constituent construction, which I equate with split DPs/PPs in Germanic and Slavic languages. The syntactic structure of Warlpiri that emerges from the dissertation strongly supports a configurational analysis of the language, and thereby the microparameter approach to nonconfigurationality.
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