Arguments and information management in Inuktitut [chapter]

Elke Nowak
2009 Typological Studies in Language  
1) Introduction Research on a variety of structurally different languages suggests that information is assigned to grammatical form in way of preferred representations of arguments. These preferences can be captured by four interacting constraints which are based on the analysis of spoken and written discourse. These constraints represent measurable discourse preferences: pragmatically unmarked utterances seem to follow them blindly and widely. Consequently, the preferences motivating these
more » ... otivating these constraints seem to represent the default structuring of discourse in immediate relation to elementary grammatical form. Discourse is no longer viewed as acting upon grammatical form, but as being 'grammatical' itself. For grammar a quantity constraint holds, limiting the optimal number of lexical arguments, as opposed to pronominal ones to one. With respect to grammatical roles it can be stated that external arguments, subjects, of transitive structures, are rather not represented lexically. i. One lexical argument constraint: Avoid more than one lexical argument per clause. ii. Lexical A constraint: Avoid lexical arguments in A-position, i.e. as external arguments of transitive clauses. These constraints are met by matching constraints on the pragmatic side, again concerning quantity and role: the optimal number of arguments representing new information is limited to one. As optimal locus for given information the external argument/subject of a transitive structure is identified. iii. One new argument constraint: Avoid more than one new argument per clause. iv. Given A constraint: Avoid new information in A. (DuBois 2003: 34) The Preferred Argument Structure Hypothesis (PAS) tries to establish a substantial and universal correlation between elementary discourse patterns and grammatical coding. It was first developed as a contribution to the debate on ergativity. DuBois (1987) proposed that ergative marking and grouping is best to be understood as coding of a discourse pattern: ergative languages code the structural positions alike where "new information" is most often represented. This is accomplished by default case marking, the absolutive, which is often zero marked. Nominative-accusative languages single it out by accusative marking. In ergative languages carried on information, the "red thread" of discourse, is specially marked, by ergative case, again in relation to its preferred locus of representation. Since protagonists of carried on information tend to be animate or even human rather than inanimate or abstract, it is likely for them to be active participants, ergates. What emerged as explanation for ergative coding is of course
doi:10.1075/tsl.86.13arg fatcat:zrbjjqu3mbcj3mjmbwvyvqxmwy