OBVIATION AND COREFERENCE RELATIONS IN CREE-MONTAGNAIS-NASKAPI

Julie Brittain

Abstract


Algonquian languages distinguish between proximate and obviative third persons. This paper claims that wherever two or more proximate third person occurs in a given derivation, these are necessarily interpreted as coreferential. Consequently, only one proximate referent is permitted per derivation. This requirement is highly ranked in the grammar, overriding the universally-familiar mechanisms of determining pronominal reference formalized by Binding Theory. Weak crossover constructions are examined as a case in point-in a subset of the Algonquian constructions examined, the expected weak crossover effects (disjoint reference between a wh-phrase and a pronominal) do not appear. In this same
subset of cases, coreference is enforced by the requirement to maintain a single proximate referent per derivation. Weak crossover effects appear in cases where this requirement does not hold. This analysis permits an account of the absence of crossover effects in Algonquian which does not appeal to the argument that Algonquian differs structurally from so-called 'configurational languages'. Possibly, the demands of the proximate/obviative system make the grammar of Algonquian appear more divergent than it is.

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