The ergativity effect in Kuikuro (Southern Carib, Brazil)

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This article first gives a typological and morphosyntactic profile of Kuikuro, a southern Cariban language. Kuikuro has ergative nominal case marking and alingnments, as well as nearly identical nominal and verbal inflection. The second part focuses on the absolutive and ergative Cases, the former attributed to internal arguments (S and O) and the latter to the external argument (A). The postposition <i>heke</i> may mark either a syntactic adjunct (Perspective) to intransitive verbs or the external (ergative) argument of transitive or transitivized verbs; we present a (semantic) hypothesis on the relation between these distinct syntactic units. We conclude that in Kuikuro, all intransitive verbs behave as inaccusatives. We find evidence that confirms the emergence of a dominant morphosyntactic ergative through reanalysis of nominalization structures. In the last part, we propose to conjoin two hypotheses, theoretically distinct but empirically convergent. The first one is that offered by Alexiadou (2001) in the frame of the generative formal theory: the state of affairs in ergative languages is similar to the case patterns in nominalizations. The second one is that of Gildea (1998): inside the Cariban family, languages with ergative morphosyntax (Full Set II) are innovative, etymologically relatable to nominalizing and adverbializing morphology of Proto-Cariban.


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