Friday, April 20: Ashwini Deo (OSU)

LVC is pleased to be hosting Ashwini Deo of the Ohio State University this week. (You can learn more about her work at her website:

Her talk will take place this Friday, April 20th at 3:30 pm in Rosenwald 301. Please see below for more information.

I hope you can make it!

“Case syncretism patterns in Indo-Aryan diachrony: Evidence from the Bhili dialect continuum”

Ashwini Deo (Ohio State University)

Indo-Aryan ergativity is aspectually conditioned: the transitive subject, if marked, is marked only in perfective clauses, and verb agreement in most (but not all) such cases, is not with the subject but rather determined by case-marking on the direct object. Existing research has amply noted language-specific variability in overt marking of ergative case on the subject, overt marking of accusative case on the object (differential object marking (DOM)), and concomitant effects on verbal agreement. While Hindi-Urdu presents the best studied system, the systems obtaining in Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Kutchi Gujarati, Nepali, and several dialects of Marathi have also been analyzed (Mahajan 1990, Mohanan 1994, Mistry 1997, Patel-Grosz 2012, a.o. for individual systems, with a comparative treatment in Deo & Sharma 2006).

In this talk, I examine the patterns found in several case-marking systems in the Bhili dialect continuum. Three properties of the relevant paradigms are worth considering:

a. In several systems, there is syncretism between ergative and oblique marking in much of the pronominal and nominal inflectional paradigms (1pl, 2pl, 3sg, 3pl).

b. In some systems, the bare oblique is further used to mark possessors in lieu of a dedicated genitive case (with num-gen-case features) seen in standard languages like Hindi and Gujarati.

c. In other systems, the bare oblique is additionally used to mark direct objects (DOM) in parts of the pronominal paradigm.

One diachronic implication of the observed synchronic patterns is that the Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) ancestor system must have transitioned to across-the-board contrastive postpositional marking for ergative and accusative (DOM) cases via a stage in which such a contrast failed to exist for the majority of the nominal paradigm. The hypothesis is that the oblique form was recruited for marking agents in perfective, transitive clauses as well as patients with high animacy/referentiality properties for those cells in the paradigm that lacked distinct inflectional ergative and accusative marking. The Bhili languages reflect strong traces of this archaic system as dedicated accusative and genitive markers are gradually rendering the correspondence between abstract case functions and morphosyntactic cases more more transparent.

I take the first steps towards explaining these synchronic/diachronic patterns by appealing to a constrained interface between abstract and morphosyntactic case of the sort assumed in Kiparsky (2001). On this approach, abstract case features function as constraints on morphosyntactic case and the assignment of morphosyntactic case marking to abstract structural roles is determined by optimizing featural correspondence between the two.

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