Focus and movement in a variety of K'ichee'




Velleman, Leah Bridges

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This dissertation describes two related phenomena in the syntax and semantics of K’ichee’ (Mayan), concentrating on the variety spoken in and around Nahualá. The first phenomenon is focus, the special discourse status granted to constituents which provide new and important information. The second phenomenon is syntactic movement, which occurs in several different constructions in K’ichee’ — most relevantly, that of focus movement. Across languages, focused constituents are highlighted in one way or another; and in Mayan languages, this highlighting often takes the form of movement to a position immediately before the verb. But I show that the relationship between focus and movement in K’ichee’ is less straightforward than has previously been assumed. In particular, it is often possible for a focused constituent to remain in situ. Having shown that focus in situ is possible, I turn to the question of when it occurs. I show that focus in situ follows an ergative/absolutive pattern: it is impossible for transitive subjects, but possible for all other constituent types. This pattern is compared to ergative/absolutive patterns found elsewhere in K’ichee’ grammar, and in other languages.




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