795A Seminar on Languages of the Caucasus (3 units)

Fall 2012


W 2:30-5 - Engineering Lab 2, Room 115


Alice Harris []


This course highlights theoretical innovations in morphology and syntax, motivated by data from three little-known language families of the Caucasus. Introducting the course, we survey some of the unusual features of these languages, such as extraordinarily large consonant inventories and extensive consonant clusters. Agreement phenomena include multiple marking of agreement, which presents a challenge to theories of identity avoidance and of feature discharge, and long distance agreement (LDA), where the matrix verb agrees with a constituent in its complement clause. LDA is shown to be subject to a series of strong grammatical constraints. Order of elements: Agreement clitics that occur inside morphemes in Udi challenge Lexical Integrity, theories of clitics, and theories of morpheme order. Word orders in some languages are not readily analyzed in terms of hierarchical phrase structure, and findings concerning order in these languages have interesting implications for theories of scrambling and ellipsis. Classificatory phenomena include morphological classification of nouns (gender) and of verbs. This has implications for general issues of categorization, acquisition of classes, and diachronic change in class systems. Much more will be included. This seminar will be co-taught with Maria Polinsky, and the UMass class will video-conference with the Harvard class.