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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Since all Mayan languages are morphologically ergative, a central question concerns the role that ergativity plays in shaping the syntax. One widely accepted view is that at least those languages which exhibit constraints on the extraction of ergatives are “syntactically ergative”. Here we review the basic facts around ergative extraction in Mayan, surveying both those languages which permit it and those which do not, and identify areas of exceptionality and variation. Central to the discussion are ‘agent focus’ constructions, constructions which permit extraction of the external argument when it is blocked from a canonical transitive clause. We discuss two approaches this constellation of facts––one which holds that constraints on ergative extraction reflect syntactic ergativity and one which holds that they do not.

Keywords: ergativity, syntactic ergativity, Mayan languages, agent focus, extraction (wh-movement), antipassive

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