Alignment change in Chukotkan
Further exploration of the pathways to ergativity
This paper examines current approaches to studying alignment change and the role of language contact in the spread of ergativity, using the Chukotkan languages as a case study. Chukotkan is exceptional in that there does not appear to be a single reanalysis pathway that can account for the development of ergative case. Rather, the system appears to be the product of several changes that operated in different domains. This paper provides an alternative to an earlier account that claims that Chukotkan ergativity developed due to Yupik substrate effects, which is not supported by the historical accounts of the contact between these groups. This explanation is consistent with a problematic tendency of treating ergativity as a special phenomenon, even though ergative alignment regularly arises via internal change. Instead, I propose that the loss of split ergative case marking occurred due to the reanalysis of a passive participle, which was motivated by the tendency to encode animacy distinctions in these languages.
Keywords: alignment change, ergativity, language contact, reanalysis, animacy, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Yupik
Published online: 22 July 2019
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