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Irrealis in Yurakaré and other languages

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Abstract

The linguistic category of irrealis does not show stable semantics across languages. This makes it difficult to formulate general statements about this category, and it has led some researchers to reject irrealis as a cross-linguistically valid category. In this paper we look at the semantics of the irrealis category of Yurakaré, an unclassified language spoken in central Bolivia, and compare it to irrealis semantics of a number of other languages. Languages differ with respect to the subcategories they subsume under the heading of irrealis. The variable subcategories are future tense, imperatives, negatives, and habitual aspect. We argue that the cross-linguistic variation is not random, and can be stated in terms of an implicational scale.

References

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