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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Subject and topic in Styatyimcets (Lillooet Salish) Roberts, Taylor


The goal of this thesis is twofold: first, to describe some of the symmetric and asymmetric behaviours of transitive and intransitive subjects in St’át’imcets, a Northern Interior Salish language spoken in southwest mainland British Columbia; second, to consider how the Principles and Parameters framework (Chomsky 1981; 1982; 1986; 1992; etc.) can explain the asymmetries. Although many Salish languages are known to display ergativity in their third-person subject inflection, the extent to which these languages are syntactically ergative is not well documented—perhaps because their accusativity has been more salient. The question has not been investigated for St’át’imcets, and this thesis shows that there is at least one aspect of St’át’imcets syntax—relativization—that appears to be ergative. Evidence of ergativity in coreference across conjuncts in St’át’imcets is not as clear, though; rather, coreference is restricted by a rule of one-nominal interpretation (Gerdts 1988) and a constraint on parallelism of discourse functions (Matthewson 1993a), both of which are shown in this thesis to derive from more general constraints on discourse. Unifying the explanations for the various asymmetries is the idea—independently motivated and proposed to account for facts in other languages—that NPs that are topics are structurally higher than NPs that are focused. Salish languages are often presented as though they were radically different from other languages, but with respect to the complex and subtle data examined in this thesis, St’ät’imcets resembles other known linguistic systems. Most of the thta are from original fieldwork, and they will be useful in the kind of comparative Northern Interior Salish research begun by Davis et al. (1993), Gardiner et al. (1993), and Matthewson et al. (1993). Syntactic pivots have not been investigated in the other MS languages, and so establishing the ways in which Nla’kapmxcin (Thompson) and Secwepemctsfn (Shuswap) differ from St’át’imcets will ideally help to explain the nature of parametric variation in syntax.

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