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date: 25 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an overview of the alignment splits found in most Iranian languages, focussing on their historical emergence, and their currently attested variability. Following Haig (2008), the origins of ergativity in Iranian are linked to pre-existing, non-canonical subject constructions typically involving Benefactives, External Possessors, and Experiencers, which then extended to clauses with participial predicates expressing agentive semantics. The current variation found in the ergative-like constructions is illustrated through three case-studies of dialectal microvariation: Kurdish, Balochi, and Taleshi. It is argued that the variation in the ergative constructions of the modern languages should be viewed as resulting from the interplay of partially independent changes working through distinct sub-systems, in particular case-marking, agreement, and pronominal clitic systems, rather than in terms of monolithic shifts from one alignment type to another. From this perspective, ergativity is merely a taxonomic label for a particular constellation of case and agreement features, with no more theoretical significance than any of the other attested constellations.

Keywords: Iranian, tense-based split, ergativity, alignment variation, Kurdish, Balochi, Taleshi

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