“But Is There a Verb?” Embedded Contemporative Clauses in Inuktitut
Tuesday, Nov. 21, 12-12:50 p.m.
Research seminar in Linguistics: Douglas Wharram
Inuktitut, along with related languages, has been argued to encode a system of so-called Switch Reference (Jacobsen 1967) (for example, Pittman 2005 for Inuktitut, Fortescue 1991 and Berge 1997 for Kalaallisut, Lanz 2010 for Iñupiaq, and Payne 1980, Finer 1984,1985, and Woodbury 1983 for Yup’ik). In a perfectly behaving switch reference system (labelled as “canonical switch reference” in Munro & Haiman 1983), some inflectional marker on the verb of a subordinate (or coordinate) clause indicates whether or
not its subject is identical with the subject of the verb in a superordinate (or coordinate) clause. That is, canonical switch reference (SR) indicates the identity or non-identity of the reference of the subject of a (typically) lower clause with the subject of a (typically) higher clause. This is standardly referred to in the literature as a relationship of co-reference (or disjoint reference). A plethora of so-called “non-canonical SR” systems have also been described for a wide variety of languages (see, for example, McKenzie 2015
and Roberts 2017), though these will (largely) not be discussed in this talk. This talk will focus on Inuttut, the dialect of Inuktitut spoken in Nunatsiavut, the easternmost of the four regions of Inuit Nunangat.
Two distinct patterns, which could plausibly be called SR phenomena (though they would both fall under a “non-canonical SR” label), exist in Inuttut. The first pattern can be found in subordinate clauses containing a main verb marked with conditional or causal mood. The second pattern can be found in subordinate clauses containing a main verb marked with contemporative mood. Despite these two
patterns frequently being convolved into a single instance of “SR in Inuktitut”, they have decidely different sets of properties, both in terms of what properties the subjects must share into order to constitute “identical” subjects, in terms of which grammatical persons (i.e., 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) participate in the system, and in other ways. Moreover, there has never been an attempt to explain why these “SR
effects” are observed in just these types of clauses (conditionals, causals, and contemporatives), and not
other types of embedded clauses in the language. This talk, then, will be primarily descriptive in nature, spelling out the precise details of where the two clause-types differ (and how both differ from other embedded clauses), and will serve as a prolegomenon to a forthcoming talk (Part Two) in this seminar series, where an analysis of why such apparently divergent effects are observable in the two clause-types (and no such effects are observed elsewhere) will be provided.
Presented by Department of Linguistics