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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyzes ergative case in the Burushaski language as a strictly structural case, not subject to arbitrary lexical variation. More specifically, ergative is a dependent case: an NP is ergative if and if it c-commands another NP in the same local domain (phase). Three apparent deviations from canonical ergativity are considered: verbs that take two absolutive arguments and no ergative, verbs that take an ergative NP and a dative NP but no absolutive, and clauses in future tense in which the transitive subject can be absolutive. In each instance, it turns out that the syntactic structure is more complex than it appears, as shown by independent tests such as agreement. Once the structures in question are properly understood, ergative case can be assigned purely structurally, with no direct sensitivity to semantic nuances or idiosyncratic lexical properties.

Keywords: ergative case, Burushaski, dependent case, structural case, unaccusatives, split ergativity, phases, agreement

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