Nicholas Longenbaugh and Maria Polinsky
This chapter summarizes major results in the domain of experimental approaches to ergativity, focusing on three major topics. First, it discusses studies that explore the competition between accusative and ergative alignment, where researchers have attempted to derive the typological preference for accusative alignment from processing- and learnability based constraints. Next, it examines studies concerning the interrelated issues of long-distance dependencies and agreement. The unique dissociation of case and argument-hood in ergative languages has afforded researchers new means of testing conclusions regarding the privileged grammatical status of subject, the relative import and function of case and agreement in the grammar, and the origins of constraints on extraction in ergative languages and beyond. Given that linguists have only recently begun to conduct experimental research on ergative languages, we conclude by suggesting areas for future research where ergativity might provide genuine insights rather than just replicate existing studies of accusative languages.