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Title: Subject positions in Marshallese
Authors: Willson, Heather
Keywords: Austronesian Languages
Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian Languages
Marshallese - Grammar
Word Order
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: University of California, Los Angeles
Abstract: This dissertation examines the position of the Marshallese subject in three different sentence types: basic declaratives, passives and infinitives. Marshallese subjects may surface in one of three positions: sentence initially, internally or finally. However, whether a subject may surface in a particular position is often constrained by clause type. In addition, some positions require a subject to have a special phonological or information status, which, I argue, is reflected in the syntax. After providing a description of the possible subject positions in various clause types, I propose an analysis for each. In basic declaratives, initial subjects are focused or topics, while sentence internal subjects (when possible) are neutral. Sentences with these subjects do not have a special phonological status. However, sentences with final subjects contain rising intonation and a pause before the final subject. After concluding that final subjects are right dislocated, I argue for a clause external structure for right dislocation. Turning to passives, I show that, despite the similarities between passives and statives, there is sufficient syntactic evidence to conclude that Marshallese has a passive construction. Included in this evidence is the prohibition against sentence internal subjects in passive sentences with certain types of agent phrases. I argue that this prohibition can be explained through the smuggling approach to passives (Collins 2005). In this analysis, some Marshallese passive sentences include an overt voice head preceding the agent phrase. However, since passive sentences with other types of agent phrases allow internal subjects, I also propose that Marshallese has a second passive construction similar to that of Watanabe (1993) and Mahajan (1994). While this second type of passive still includes a Voice projection, the head of this projection is null. Based on a number of syntactic properties including the ability or inability of the subject to immediately follow the matrix verb, I argue that Marshallese infinitival sentences fall into three classes: two of these classes are monoclausal or restructuring infinitives, while the third is a class of biclausal or non-restructuring infinitives. Finally, I propose Marshallese restructuring configurations of the type argued for by Wurmbrand (2001) and Cinque (2006).
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