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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Grammatical possession in Nuu-chah-nulth Ravinski, Christine


The goal of this thesis is to provide a syntactic analysis of the possessive constructions in NCN, a Southern Wakashan language. This thesis adopts a broadly minimalist perspective (Chomsky 1995) and draws on primary data from native speakers intuitions in addition to published sources. Elicited data come mainly from speakers of the Ahousaht dialect, which is spoken on Flores Island, British Columbia. I discuss three types of possessive constructions: (i) possessed DPs (ii) possessed nominal predicates (iii) possessor raising The third type, possessor raising, is of special interest: A possessive marker referring to a possessed subject DP can attach to that subject's predicate. Subject agreement on the predicate then indexes the possessor, not the possessed subject. Unlike in other types of possession, the possessor and its possessum do not form a single constituent. In contrast to parallel structures cross-linguistically, Nuu-chah-nulth possessor raising can occur only from possessed subjects, but it is otherwise unrestricted by possessor or predicate type. I propose for Nuu-chah-nulth that the possessive morpheme corresponds to a possessive head in the functional architecture of either the DP or clausal domain. Both the Possessive Phrase and a possessor DP are associated with a possessive feature. Where the possessive marker is generated above a possessed subject DP, the possessor must raise out of it in order to check this feature. I furthermore adopt the theory of multiple feature checking (Ura 1996), such that the possessor DP may be associated with both a possessive and a set of agreement (<J>) features. This allows the possessor to raise further, and check its agreement features with the head that hosts subject inflection. By occupying this higher position the possessor determines inflection structurally, without being directly linked to the external argument of the predicate. This analysis suggests that the notion of "subject" is split between at least two syntactic positions. Evidence illustrating clear subject-object asymmetries as well as data suggesting A-movement of the possessor supports a configurational, rather than discourse-driven, view of Nuu-chah-nulth grammar.

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