Kristine Yu will give the department colloq at MIT on Friday, February 6 at 3:30 in room 32-141. The title of her talk is “Tonal marking of absolutive case in Samoan,” and an abstract follows.
This paper argues that the ergative-marking Austronesian languageSamoan has a high boundary tone that occurs on the last mora of theword preceding an absolutive argument, and that the source of thistone is inflectional morphology and not lexical representations,pragmatics, syntax, semantics, or phonology. In short, the claim isthat Samoan has an absolutive high boundary tone case morpheme. Thisclaim is surprising for two reasons. First, Samoan is not a tonelanguage. Second, regardless of the source of the absolutive tone,positing it: (1) introduces a boundary paradox since it groups anabsolutive case head with the prosodic constituent preceding theabsolutive argument, and (2) implies that the presence of anabsolutive induces a new phonological constituent. Nevertheless, Ishow that inflectional morphology must be the source of the absolutivehigh tone based on a converging body of evidence from: (1) thedistribution of the rarely discussed ia particle that optionallyprecedes absolutive arguments and (2) the phonetic and phonologicalanalysis of intonational patterns in the spoken utterances of asystematically varied set of syntactic structures. I also address thepuzzles that the presence of an absolutive tonal case morpheme inSamoan raises.