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Syntax Interface Lectures Utrecht


1 March 2021
16:00 - 17:00
MS Teams (to join the team, contact: syntax.interface@uu.nl)

Bernat Bardagil (Ghent University)

Deriving participant exponence in Panará

In this talk I will present an overview and an analysis of the exponence of participants on the polysynthetic verb complex in Panará, a Jê language spoken in central Brazil.

I will address two properties of number morphosyntax in Panará so far unexplored in the literature: the morphological exponence of dual and plural, and the omnivorous properties of dual. Panará is a polysynthetic language with ergative case marking and a very flexible constituent order. Number values are indexed morphologically on two loci: on DPs and on the verb complex. I propose a binary approach to number features where feature overspecification triggers morphological repair. This mechanism can explain the two phenomena investigated.

(1)   Ka=      mẽ=   r=             anpun.
(1).  2.ERG  du      1SB.ABS see
(1).  ‘You two saw me.’
(1).  or ‘You[SG] saw us two.’
(1).  or ‘You two saw us two.’

In this talk I also argue that argument clitics in Panará do not present a nominative paradigm in irrealis (contra Dourado 2001). Instead, the allomorphy of participant exponence creates an illusion of nominative alignment. Dourado (2001) presents an analysis where Panará ergative and absolutive clitics in realis mood shift to a system where a nominative paradigm cross-references transitive and intransitive subjects, and the absolutive paradigm becomes an accusative.

However, a more fine-grained take from the lens of participant categories broader than traditional specific persons, with speaker/non-speaker and addressee/non-addressee oppositions (e.g., Harley & Ritter (2002)) can account for the illusion of Panará nominative, a consequence of an impoverished morphological inventory in irrealis mood and a discontinuous exponence of arguments in the verb complex.

(2)  Pjãn rahã    ka=  ti=   ∅=    py=   a=  pôôj?
(2)  Q       ADES  IRR  2/3  2SG  DIR   2    arrive.IRR
(2)  ‘When will you come back?’
(2)  Mỹ= py=    akun=          mõ  rahã    ka=  ∅=  py=   ∅=  pôôj
(2)  DIR  ITER  dry.season go    ADES  IRR  1     DIR  1/3  arrive.IRR
(2)  ‘I’ll come back in the next dry season.’

There is no nominative in Panará: DPs are always case-marked in an ergative alignment, and argumental clitics are a patchwork of participant feature exponence.


Dourado, Luciana. 2001. Aspectos morfossintáticos da língua panará (jê). Campinas: Universidade Estadual de Campinas PhD thesis.

Harley, Heidi & Elizabeth Ritter. 2002. Person and number in pronouns: a feature-geometric analysis. Language 78(3). 482–526.