Morphology and Syntax

January 31, 2020 | 11:30AM
Cobb 107

"Evidence for Syntactic Recursion in a Native Language of the Brazilian Amazon"
Adam Roth Singerman - UChicago

Tuparí, a Tupían language of the Brazilian Amazon, retains several non-finite subordination strategies that reconstruct back to Proto-Tupían. These non-finite subordination strategies often consist of nominalizations of relatively small pieces of [+VERBAL] syntactic structure — at most an Aspectual Phrase and sometimes just a vP. Alongside these non-finite strategies, however, the language has innovated a subordinate clause construction that retains virtually all of the morphosyntactic diagnostics that characterize finite matrix clauses. These subordinate clauses maintain the full set of tense and evidentiality distinctions found in matrix contexts; exhibit Tense-sensitive agreement phenomena; feature information structural permutations including the fronting of wh-words to a high left peripheral position; and may include at least some members of the language's set of second position clause-typing particles.

This talk has two major objectives: (a) to describe and analyze this innovative subordination strategy and (b) to show this strategy's significance for broader typological and theoretical debates. In particular, fully finite embedded clauses in Tuparí contribute to the typology of recursive structures attested in indigenous languages of Amazonia. Work on recursion in Amazonian languages (see Amaral et al 2018, 'Recursion across domains') has identified a range of constructions that exhibit formally recursive structure. However, outside of quotative constructions I know of no clear cases among Native Brazilian. languages of the kind of construction that Tuparí exhibits, with fully finite clauses embedded inside of fully finite clauses. Language-internal evidence shows that the Tuparí construction cannot be reduced to influence from Portuguese (with which Tuparí is in intensive bilingual contact) but must instead be analyzed as an autochthonous development. I argue that the facts from Tuparí have much to contribute to the study of recursion in Amazonia, a topic which has received surprising popular attention over the last fifteen years.

Additional theoretical significance comes from the fact that these fully finite embedded clauses feature a striking surface violation of the Final-over- FinalCondition (formerly: the Final-over-Final Constraint). I show that Tuparí clauses feature a head-final layer (instantiated by the nominalizer hè) on top of a head-initial CP and TP, in violation of the strictest versions of FOFC. It does not seem possible to accommodate these facts under Hein and Murphy's (2020) approach to VP nominalization, nor under Biberauer's (2017) work on particles. The Tuparí facts thus contribute to a growing number of examples of FOFC violations attested in Native Amazonian languages, including Tenetehara (Tupí-Guaraní), Amahuaca (Panoan) and possibly Gavião de Rondônia (Tupí-Mondé).