AN INCLINATION TOWARDS ACCUSATIVE

Alana Johns

Abstract


This paper argues that linguistic hierarchies are not real in any linguistic sense but are summaries of linguistic observation or typology. Position in any hierarchy is based on intrinsic properties, specjically complexity of linguistic substance. To illustrate, an example involving a change in degree of ergativity across dialects of Inuktitut is discussed. A hierarchy account would only record changes in the use of case, but would not be able to probe the subtle changes in case structure which are suggested by the facts. Under this view, case is not a position on a hierarchy but a syntactic construct, where different cases may have differing complexities (Bejar and Hall 1999). [n particular, accusative case has only a little k (or functional case), and cannot license an NP on its own, i.e., is structural. In contrast, a structure with a little k and a minimum lexical complement can license an NP, i.e., is oblique. The subtle interplay between accusative, partitive and instrumental case in different dialects is examined. It is argued that the Inuktitut
case marker MIK originates as an oblique case in western dialects, but has undergone grammaticalization in eastern dialects. Grammaticalization is seen here to be structure reduction.

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