Presenter: Jessica Coon

When: 2/23 1pm-2pm in Linguistics 117

Title: Unergatives, antipassives, and roots in Chuj

The suffix -w in Chuj (Mayan) is found in two contexts: (i) attached to transitive roots to form what have been labelled “incorporation antipassives” and (ii) attached to nominal and positional roots to form unergatives. In both contexts, the result is an intransitive verb form with a single, agentive external argument. In this paper I provide a unified analysis of these constructions in which -w is a Voice head that attaches to a category-neutral root, introducing an external argument but not assigning case. This has important implications for the status of antipassives—or at least certain types of constructions which have been described as antipassives. In Chuj, I argue that the incorporation antipassive formed with -w does not convert a transitive verb into an intransitive verb (as antipassives are frequently described; see Polinsky, to appear). Instead, both transitive and “antipassive” stems are formed directly from an under-specified root.

I contrast stem-forming morphology like -w with other valence-altering morphology in Chuj, arguing for a distinction between (i) morphemes which attach directly to bare roots, and serve to specify the argument structure properties of the stem, and (ii) morphemes which attach to already-formed stems, and may alter the argument structure of a stem. Interestingly, the latter type permit the reintroduction of “demoted”. arguments via oblique phrases (i.e. the antipassive patient and the passive agent), while the former do not. I suggest this is a direct consequence of their level of attachment.