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Lecture | Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series

Constructing the Siona nominal from the bottom up: a Minimalist perspective

Thursday 28 April 2022
Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


This talk focuses on the Ecuadorian variety of Siona, a Tukanoan language of the Western branch spoken by roughly 200-300 individuals, with a special emphasis on the syntax of nominal structures. Over the past decades there has been a lively discussion in the literature regarding how much structure is hosted within the extended nominal projection and whether all nominals can be unified as a single category, corresponding to a (more or less) universal structure (e.g., Abney 1987, Alexiadou 2004, Chomsky 1995, and many others). Here I contribute to this discussion by considering the structure and functions of nominals (DPs) as particular to the empirical facts of Siona – a language with, among other relevant properties, a mildly agglutinating character, a mid-sized inventory of nominal classifiers, a plural marker split, complex differential case marking patterns, and radical argument drop. Translated to the perspective of generally accepted tenets of minimalist structure building, I address (i) which heads are projected to form nominal “words” and DP-internal modifiers, (ii) the set of features that these heads host, (iii) some aspects of adnominal modification, in the absence of an independent syntactic adjectival category. Finally, I discuss these baseline facts in the context of microvariation across the Tukanoan family and languages belonging to neighbouring families which display similar defining properties of the North-West Amazonian (NWA) typological profile.

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