Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The morphosyntax and processing of number marking in Yucatec Maya
by Butler, Lindsay Kay, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2011, 223; 3494241
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a theoretical and experimental investigation of number marking in Yucatec Maya, a language in which number marking has different properties than better known Indo-European languages with inflectional plural marking and obligatory number agreement. The primary goal of this thesis is to propose a formal syntactic analysis of plural marking in Yucatec Maya in the nominal and verbal domains. I do this by examining the distribution and interpretation of the plural morpheme and by proposing an analysis within a Minimalist framework. The secondary goal is to investigate how the formal representation of plural marking interacts with real-time sentence processing mechanisms. I do this through timed translation experiments (and a picture description experiment) with bilingual speakers of Yucatec Maya and Spanish, two languages in which the formal representation of number marking and agreement differs. These experiments are tests of the formal syntactic analyses proposed in this thesis, and they examine the effect of language-particular syntax on sentence processing mechanisms.

In the nominal domain, I argue that the plural marker is adjoined to the Determiner Phrase, rather than heading a Number Phrase, following the syntax of plural marking proposed by Wiltschko (2008). It merges as an adjunct to the DP, lacking the ability to change the label of the element with which it merges. This analysis explains the distributional and interpretational properties of plural marking as well as the otherwise peculiar lack of morphosyntactic persistence in certain conditions in an experimental translation task.

I also propose an analysis of plural marking in the verbal domain and its relationship to word order. In verb-initial clauses, the aspect-mood particle is the main predicate in T0 which is &phis;-deficient. There is no Agree for number between the plural-marked full DP and verb due to the absence of C0 (Chomsky, 2008). For DP-initial clauses, a DP bearing plural morphology moves to the CP domain, triggered by a topic or focus feature. The uninterpretable number feature on C 0 probes via T0 for an interpretable valued feature in its domain (Chomsky, 2001). This analysis predicts asymmetric number agreement in Yucatec Maya, which is tested experimentally.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Harley, Heidi
Commitee: Barss, Andrew, Karimi, Simin, Nicol, Janet
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 73/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Native American studies
Keywords: Morphology, Morphosyntax, Number, Plural, Sentence processing, Syntax, Yucatec Maya
Publication Number: 3494241
ISBN: 978-1-267-15674-7
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