Tuesday, March 14, 2017  |  3p  |  Moore Hall 258

manoasealA typology of antipassives, with special reference to Mayan

Raina Heaton, Linguistics

Chair: Lyle Campbell

This dissertation presents the results of a typological study that investigated the global distribution of antipassive constructions, as well as the distribution of the relevant antipassiverelated features. The sample includes data from 445 languages, which represent 144 language families and isolates. This larger study is informed by an in-depth analysis of Kaqchikel antipassives, and how this influences our understanding of antipassives of Mayan languages.

The goals of this study are (1) to provide a more comprehensive look at antipassives and antipassive-type structures than had previously been attempted; (2) to provide an updated account of antipassives in Mayan languages, based on primary data; (3) to discover which other typological factors relate to the existence of antipassives in a particular language (4) to discover the types and distribution of features in antipassive-type constructions cross-linguistically, and (5) to establish guidelines for the identification and description of antipassive-type constructions in a wide variety of languages.

Among other discoveries, findings show that about 25% of the world’s language have antipassive constructions. Antipassives tend to exist in languages with ergative-absolutive verb alignment, although there are also non-ergative languages which have antipassives. Additionally, while there is on some level a division between antipassives which serve primarily syntactic functions and those which serve primarily pragmatic functions, the more consistent distinction is between antipassives with allow the patient to be expressed in an oblique phrase and those which do not. There are also a small number of languages which can be said to have more than one antipassive.

Mayan languages are known for having a rather large number of voice distinctions, including passives and antipassives. I identify five morphosyntactically distinct agent-preserving detransitivizing constructions in Kaqchikel, two of which I considered to be antipassives. I also look at several issues involving the markers for these constructions, the syntactic contexts in which they appear, and how they differ in terms of their function. The facts for Kaqchikel are also compared with what is known about other K’ichean and non-K’ichean languages.