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date: 12 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents a survey of ergativity in Jaminjung, a Mindi language of northern Australia. Jaminjung is morphologically ergative but displays nominative-accusative traits in several syntactic constructions. It also exhibits differential (“optional”) agent marking since in most environments, ergative case may be present or absent, depending on multiple factors. These include factors which are known to trigger splits in split ergative systems – animacy, degree of impingement on the patient, and aspect – but also information structure: the presence of ergative marking strongly correlates with focus. A further interesting phenomenon is the occasional use of the ablative case as an alternative to the ergative case in marking agents, also related to information structure, verb class and animacy. Taking a construction-based perspective, it is argued that agent marking in Jaminjung is neither purely lexically nor purely structurally determined, but can be accounted for by a number of violable constraints, without strict ranking.

Keywords: Optional ergativity, argument structure, focus, topic, agentivity, animacy, aspect, violable constraints

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