A Syntactic Treatment of Nukuoro Demonstratives

Date
2024
Authors
Asperheim, Margaret
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Fukuda, Shinichiro
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Linguistics
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Abstract
This thesis is a novel analysis of the syntax of nominal and verbal demonstratives in Nukuoro, an understudiedOutlier Polynesian language. In Nukuoro and other Polynesian languages, any one of three demonstratives, distinguished by speaker distance, may follow the noun. When in the post-nominal position, the demonstrative modifies the spatial position of the object: a noun followed by the proximal demonstrative is interpreted as close to the speaker, for instance. Unusually, this same suite of demonstratives may also follow verbs. When in the post-verbal position, the demonstrative modifies the temporal semantics of the event: a verb followed by the proximal demonstrative must be interpreted as happening in the present, and a verb followed by the medial demonstrative must be interpreted as happening in the future or in the irrealis mood. The first part of this thesis provides an overview of Nukuoro syntax, mostly based on Drummond (2023), with particular emphasis on the syntax and semantics of demonstratives. I propose, based on cross-linguistic evidence, e.g. Brugè and Giusti (1996), Panagiotidis (2000), Giusti (2002), and Shlonsky (2004), and evidence from Nukuoro, that demonstratives are modifiers which originate in the specifier position of a functional phrase above NP or VP. To derive the observed post-nominal and post-verbal position of demonstratives, I argue that NP and VP move to a position directly below the functional projections DP and IP, respectively. Next, I discuss the position of nominal and verbal complements with respect to demonstratives in the DP and IP. It is observed that, in both nominal and clausal environments, complements may either precede or follow demonstratives. I show that all positions of demonstrative and complement can be accounted for by positing two relevant functional heads: a lower head F2, which has an uninterpretable EPP feature, and a higher head F1, which has an uninterpretable [Pred] feature. Similar proposals have been made on the basis of verbal complement behavior in related Polynesian languages (Massam 2001; Collins 2017; Drummond 2023); I extend these proposals, arguing that a complementary process takes place in the nominal domain. I conclude with a critical look at two other analyses of Nukuoro post-verbal demonstratives (PVDs): one which considers them syntactic instantiations of tense, and another which considers them to be temporal adverbs. I show that neither appropriately categorizes post-verbal demonstratives, which consistently behave unlike both tense and adverbials; instead, I suggest that the class of syntactic demonstratives – which likely originated in the nominal projection – modify verbs as well as nouns, with a subsequent extension in deixis from the temporal domain.
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Linguistics, demonstratives, Nukuoro, Polynesian, syntax, tense
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61 pages
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