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Differential Argument Marking with the Latvian debitive

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Abstract

The present paper investigates the NP-triggered Differential Argument Marking phenomena (DAM) found in the debitive construction of Latvian. There are two perspectives: the synchronic perspective aims at providing a coherent description of the DAM in Contemporary Latvian, while comparison with data from Old and Early Modern Latvian allows for a diachronic perspective. The arguments of the debitive, A, S and P, are marked non-canonically by the dative and nominative case, respectively. The emergence of new, canonical case-marking strategies, namely, acc on the P argument and occasionally nom on the S argument, has created differential marking for the S (dat/nom) and for the P argument (nom/acc). We claim that the appearance of these new case-marking strategies is the result of the increasing degree of grammaticalization of the debitive as well as the pressure of the canonical case-assignment patterns. Thus, the debitive incipiently and gradually loses its original lexical properties such as the own case frame (stemming from the possessive predicate) in favor of the case frame of the embedded lexical verb, thereby becoming similar to an auxiliary. In turn, the appearance and spread of the new case-marking strategies is conditioned by various factors and constraints that are established through a multifactorial analysis. Thus, acc marking proceeds along the accessibility scale starting from the most-accessible NP types, and is additionally conditioned by linear position, animacy and the semantic class of the lexical verb embedded under the debitive. In contrast, the sporadic appearance of the nom marking, i.e. the failure of the underlying nom to be turned into the dat otherwise required by the debitive, is found with NPs with low-individuated referents and may appear with existential verbs only. The postverbal position is an additional attracting factor here.

References

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