Genitive relative constructions and agent incorporation in Tongan

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Polynesian languages commonly use the genitive relative construction (GRC) for non-subject relatives, in which the thematic subject of the relative clause is realized as a genitive that seemingly modifies the head noun. In Tongan, the GRC shows additional idiosyncratic properties: (a) The relative clause must contain a transitive verb; (b) the thematic subject of a relative clause must be pronominal; and (c) the genitive must be preposed. This study argues that these facts can be accounted for by assuming that (a) the relative clause of a GRC is an agentless transitive construction; (b) the genitive is base generated; and (c) the genitive is interpreted as the thematic subject of the relative clause through pragmatic rather than syntactic means.


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