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Title: Architecture of the Palauan Verbal Complex
Authors: Nuger, Justin
Keywords: Austronesian Languages
Malayo-Polynesian Languages
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract: This dissertation addresses two fundamental, difficult questions in linguistic theory. The morphological question involves the formal status of verbs as “words,” while the syntactic question is concerned with how verb phrases are constructed. Both questions arise in frameworks, including DistributedMorphology and recent versions of Minimalism, in which the material that constitutes a verb is distributed over multiple syntactic heads. To address these questions, I develop a theory of the verbal complex of Palauan, an Austronesian language spoken by approximately 15,000 people in the Republic of Palau and elsewhere. The data covers new empirical domains and is drawn both frommy original fieldwork and fromsources of naturally occurring data. I begin by exploring the nature of grammatical relations in Palauan (subjects, direct objects, and possessors), concluding that they are instantiated by the operation Agree. The morphosyntax of accusative DPs also suggests that licensing heads that trigger Agreemay have other features bundledwith them, like tense, aspect, or mood. Next, Palauan phrasal idioms reveal a locality restriction on their subparts for which I propose a constraint that refers to linearized strings. If the analysis is correct, Palauan idioms provide a newtype of evidence for a post-syntactic component of the grammar. Then, fromonemorphologically uniformclass of intransitive verbs and adjectives, I conclude that there are three distinct syntactic subclasses— passive verbs, unaccusative verbs, and stative adjectives. The result bears on the nature of the relations between functional heads and their complements, which I take to be something like feature-unification (rather than category-selection). Finally, the internal structure of resultative adjective phrases suggests that Palauan words are derived (at least partially) syntactically, where a syntactic head can merge with a phrasal XP but form a morphophonological word with just a proper subpart of that XP. The overall picture that emerges is that while the (morpho)syntax of Palauan appears initially baroque, it is not tremendously different from that of other languages. Still, its sometimes unusual properties can help shed light on long-standing questions about similar phenomena in better-studied languages.
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