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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

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CiteScore 2018: 0.97

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Volume 37, Issue 3


Transitivity alternations in Yucatec, and the correlation between aspect and argument roles

Martin Krämer / Dieter Wunderlich
Published Online: 2008-02-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.37.3.431


This paper analyzes the argument structure of Yucatec Mayan. In line with traditional assumptions but in contrast to more recent proposals, we show that Yucatec has ergative morphology but not a split-ergative system. For intransitive verbs there is a strict correlation between aspect and the type of linker: they take ergative clitics in the imperfect, but nominative suffixes in the perfect. Moreover, each intransitive verb is either inherently perfective or inherently imperfective, and only the opposite aspect is marked. We account for these data by two basic assumptions: (i) verbal (sub)predicates may characterize the beginning or the end of the situation, and (ii) imperfect selects an initial phase but perfect the end. In addition, Yucatec has an overt system of transitivity alternations: intransitive verbs may add a subject or an object, and transitive verbs may demote the subject or the object. We show that all these alternations fully conform to our basic assumptions. Finally, we show how three-place verbal concepts are expressed in a language with only two structural arguments by the interaction of detransitivization and transitivization.

About the article

*Correspondence address: Seminar für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf, Universitätsstr. 1, D-40225 Dässeldorf, Germany.

Received: 1998-02-03

Revised: 1999-03-30

Published Online: 2008-02-20

Published in Print: 1999-05-01

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 37, Issue 3, Pages 431–479, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.37.3.431.

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