Differential object marking in South Saami

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: This licentiate thesis investigates the case and the syntactic position of the direct object in South Saami. The focus is on plural direct objects, which have Differential Object Marking, a phenomenon in which the case alternates between different types of direct objects. In South Saami, some direct objects carry the accusative case form in the plural, while others only carry the plural marker. This variation of suffix displayed on the direct object is contingent on definiteness; definite direct objects consistently display the accusative case form in the plural while indefinite direct objects, specific and nonspecific alike, lack accusative morphology. In addition to case marking, the study presents an analysis of the alternation of the syntactic position of some direct objects. Definite and indefinite specific direct objects can be realized in two positions: as the complement of the verb or in a position as specifier of the light verb projection. By contrast, indefinite nonspecific direct objects obligatorily surface in the complement position of the verb. This variability in syntactic position of some direct objects is analyzed by means of a Specificity Operator, adjoined to the DP-level of every specific NP, definite and indefinite. The operator moves as an instance of quantifier raising in order to take scope over Existential Closure (EC). EC binds NPs in its domain and give them an existential reading. Therefore, when the Specificity Operator raises, it anchors the DP it is adjoined to in a domain, which is unbound by EC and therefore facilitates a specific interpretation. The operator, void of phonological content, can raise alone to the specifier of vP as an instance of covert movement. The operator can also Pied-pipe the DP it is adjoined to, which results in overt movement of the DP. Indefinite nonspecific direct objects lack the Specificity Operator and therefore they remain in-situ in the VP, where they are bound by EC.In addition to its theoretical value, the thesis will be of use for teachers, students and others with an interest in a better understanding of the case form and the position of the direct object in South Saami.

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