morphosyntax query

Stephen M. Wechsler wechsler at
Mon Apr 17 20:21:56 UTC 2000

This query is not strictly about Austronesian.  We're looking for examples
in any language, so it could include Austronesian, Australian languages or
any others you happen to know about.  (Apologies to those who received this
already from other lists.)

We are looking for further examples, in any language, of an intriguing
morphosyntactic phenomenon we have observed in Serbo-Croatian (described in
Wechsler and Zlatic 1999).  In brief, the phenomenon is as follows:  A
particular morphosyntactic feature (oblique case, in this instance) must be
morphologically expressed on some element within the relevant domain (the
NP, in this instance), but there is more than one possible site for it to
be expressed.  Normally Serbo-Croatian case is expressed on the head noun,
determiner, and adjectives.  If the NP consists of a noun alone, and that
noun is a special indeclinable one (e.g. a loan) then it is ungrammatical
in certain circumstances (see (1)).  But these NPs become acceptable if
case is expressed by a determiner or adjective modifying the uninflected
noun.  The generalization is as follows:

(1) If a verb or noun assigns dative or instrumental case to an NP, then
that case must be morphologically realized by some element within the NP.

This condition is NOT the norm for Serbo-Croatian case.  It applies only to
dative and instrumental case, not nominative, accusative, or genitive.  It
applies only to verb- and noun-assigned case, not to preposition-assigned
case. Uninflected NPs (i.e. consisting of indeclinables) are acceptable in
those situations not covered by (1).

Some examples follow.  The female name Miki and the adjective braon 'brown'
are undeclinable, while the name Larisom 'Larisa-INST', the possessive
adjective mojom 'my' and the adjective lepoj 'beautiful' are inflected for
case.  As shown, the examples lacking inflected items are unacceptable.

(2)	a.	Odusevljena    sam  Larisom / *Miki.
		impressed-1SG  AUX  Larisa-INST / Miki
		'I am impressed by Larisa / Miki.'

	b.	Odusevljena     sam  mojom       Miki.
		impressed-1SG   AUX  my-INST.SG  Miki
		'I am impressed by my Miki.'

	c.	Divim	   se	{*braon / lepoj}         Miki.
		admire-1SG REFL	brown / beautiful-DAT.SG Miki
		'I admire {brunette/ beautiful} Miki'

To repeat, we are looking for situations in any language where some
morphosyntactic feature (not necessarily case) must be morphologically
realized, but more than one possibility is available for realization.  For
example, a roughly similar situation is found in Puerto Rican Spanish
plural morphology, as described in Poplack 1980.  Thank-you in advance.

--Steve Wechsler     wechsler at
  Larisa Zlatic      lzlatic at


Wechsler, Stephen, and Larisa Zlatic. 1999. Syntax and Morphological
Realization in Serbo-Croatian. Slavic in HPSG, ed. by R. Borsley and A.
Przepiorkowski, 283-309. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Poplack, Shana. 1980. Deletion and disambiguation in Puerto Rican Spanish.
Language 56.2, 371-385.

Stephen Wechsler, Assoc.Prof. |
Linguistics Dept.             |   Calhoun Hall 403
University of Texas           |   ph. (512)471-1701
Austin, TX 78712-1196         |   fax (512)471-4340

Spring 2000 office hours:  Tu 3:30-5, W 3-4:30
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