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date: 20 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Tongan (Polynesian) shows ergative-absolutive (ERG-ABS) patterns in morphology as well as syntax, but the ERG-ABS pattern is not consistent throughout the language. Noun morphology shows a split between clitic pronouns and other types of nouns. In syntax, three phenomena show an ERG-ABS contrast: (a) relativization using the gap strategy is limited to ABS and ERG-relatives require resumption; (b) coordinate reduction applies only if the gap and the antecedent are in the same case, be it ABS or ERG; and (c) only ABS, but not ERG, can serve as the antecedent of the null SE anaphor. No single factor can account for all three of these phenomena and at least two of the three patterns are shown to be better viewed as PF-phenomena. The data suggest that syntactic ergativity should be understood as a construction-specific phenomenon rather than a language-specific property.

Keywords: Syntactic ergativity, Tongan, relativization, ergative, case feature, split ergativity, Tongan, Austronesian

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