Differential Subject Marking in Kazakh

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This dissertation investigates the syntactic underpinnings of differential subject marking in Kazakh. Differential subject marking (DSM) is the phenomenon whereby subjects of certain clauses get differentially case marked. In Kazakh, we find nominative-accusative or nominative-genitive subject case alternations in (i) nominalized complement clauses, (ii) finite embedded clauses headed by the complementizer dep, and (iii) relative clauses. While some functionalist-typological approaches and related analyses couched in Optimality Theory predict that DSM is the mirror image of Differential Object Marking (DOM), the dissertation shows that this is not borne out. The emerging picture is that Kazakh DSM is constructed exclusively by syntactic processes and there is no need to resort to extra-syntactic mechanisms to explain the attested DSM patterns. In the course of this investigation, the dissertation engages with theoretical questions such as A/A-bar-dependencies and their properties, locality, the mapping between the syntactic and semantic components of grammar, and the role of defectiveness, the Activity Condition and abstract Case in motivating syntactic movement. I begin the discussion with the genitive-nominative case alternation attested on the nominalized embedded clause subject. A detailed empirical investigation of the interpretation of genitive and nominative subjects show that the former have anaphoric definite reference, whereas the latter are non-anaphoric. I show that this difference in interpretation is underpinned by a positional distinction: the genitive phrase is located at the clause edge, while the nominative subject is lower in the structure. I demonstrate that subject movement to the clause edge is not driven by phi-features, instead I propose that the operation called "Subject Shift" is responsible for the movement of the presuppositional (anaphoric) noun phrase to the clause edge position. I then turn to examining Kazakh hyper-raising constructions, i.e., embedded finite dep-clauses that display nominative-accusative subject case alternation. I draw on novel approaches to the A/A-bar-distinction and bring them in conversation with novel Kazakh data. Concurring with a line of inquiry that argues that complementizers can bear phi-probes and therefore the edge of the clause is an A-position, I propose that the dep complementizer in embedded clauses bears a phi-probe that triggers A-movement to the clause edge, where the subject gets dependent accusative case. As the landing site of this A-movement is outside of the non-presuppositional domain, the accusative subject is interpreted as a presuppositional (anaphoric) expression. This way, the analysis contributes both to theoretical approaches to hyper-raising by arguing against defectiveness-based approaches, and to theoretical proposals on the A/A-bar-distinction. Finally, I investigate the nominative-genitive subject case alternation in relative clauses, which co-occurs with an ostensively non-local subject agreement marker. This extremely well-attested phenomenon in Turkic, Mongolic and Finno-Ugric languages has received three different analyses in the literature: (i) the genitive subject undergoes raising to Spec,DP of the modified noun phrase, (ii) the relative clause is defective, which makes the subject permeable to enter into Agree with the D head of the modified noun phrase, and (iii) the genitive-marked noun phrase is base-generated in the possessor position. This work demonstrates that the third analysis is the correct one for Kazakh and puts forth the novel claim that the possessor controls a PRO subject in the relative clause subject position. Furthermore, I present the novel observation that the movement to the left of the genitive-marked noun phrase is an instance of intermediate scrambling (it can create new binding relations, it remedies WCO but is also reconstructs for Condition A). This way, the dissertation also contributes to the literature on scrambling and control.

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281 pages


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Clausal nominalization; Differential case marking; Hyperraising; Kazakh; Relative clauses; Turkic


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Despic, Miloje

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Whitman, John
Diesing, Molly

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Ph. D., Linguistics

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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