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Concepts of structural underspecification in Bantu and Romance

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Abstract

The paper explores parallelisms between Bantu (specifically Otjiherero) and Romance (through Latin and Spanish) with respect to left and right peripheries, and subject and object clitics. The analysis is formulated in Dynamic Syntax (DS, Cann et al. 2005) and centrally involves notions of structural underspecification. Through providing detailed analyses of different word order possibilities in the Bantu and Romance languages discussed, we show how DS concepts of structural growth over initially underspecified tree relations, such as the building of linked structures and unfixed nodes, provide a uniform basis for analyses of word order variation across the two language groups. We then extend our analysis to include Bantu subject/object markers, which we analyze by employing the same formal tools as used in the analysis of Romance (object) clitics, namely unfixed nodes which have to be construed within a tightly locally restricted domain. Empirical support for our analysis comes from restrictions on the presence of object markers in passive and locative inversion constructions in Otjiherero, which we show to follow from independent constraints of the availability of unfixed nodes within a given domain. The analyses of Bantu and Romance presented show that despite differences in surface morphology between the two language groups, both exhibit a striking parallel with respect to the way lexical information and general structure building principles of DS interact. The difference between Romance clitic systems and the agglutinative morphology of Bantu subject and object makers is thus seen to be comparatively superficial, while the DS analysis brings out the strong structural parallelism between the two language groups.

References

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