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Clause structure, agreement and case in Gitksan Hunt, Katharine D.

Abstract

This dissertation proposes an analysis of certain aspects of the syntax and morphology of Gitksan, a Tsimshianic language of northwestern British Columbia. In particular, the goal of the dissertation is to show that, despite claims and surface appearances to the contrary, the structure of a Gitksan sentence conforms to the putatively universal constraints on sentence structure proposed in Government and Binding theory. In order to defend this claim, I show that other structures which have been proposed for the language are not well-motivated by data, and that the structure I propose is able to account for the complex case and agreement facts observed in declarative Gitksan sentences. The thesis is structured in the following way. Chapter 1 briefly sketches the theoretical framework I assume, while Chapter 2 consists of a short introduction to some salient aspects of Gitksan phonology, morphology and syntax. Chapter 3 contains a comprehensive discussion of typological and structural properties of Gitksan sentences. I review those characteristics of the language which have led researchers to claim that Gitksan is either an ergative or a non-configurational language, but I argue that these surface characteristics do not provide compelling evidence that Gitksan should be assigned any divergent type of syntactic structure. On the contrary, I show that there is syntactic evidence in Gitksan to support a standard structure. I conclude Chapter 3 by examining a possible alternative proposal, namely that Gitksan is a pronominal argument language.’ Once again, however, I argue that the data are more consistent with a conservative account- in this case, one in which nominals function as arguments rather than adjuncts. In Chapter 4, I present in some detail data relating to agreement, case and the distribution of overt and silent pronominals in Gitksan, showing how these complex data can be accounted for under the structure I assume. The analysis presented in this chapter has important consequences for the treatment of morphological agreement and case in GB theory.

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