The genius of Mocho’ (Mayan) : morphosyntactic alignment and its interaction with grammatical aspect and information structure

Date
2021-09-27
Authors
Pérez González, Jaime
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Abstract

This dissertation offers a refined account of person marking in Mocho’, a highly endangered Mayan language spoken by around 50 people in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. In previous research, Mocho’ has been described as having two sets of person markings (Set A and B), but here, as one of the main contributions of this research, I show evidences of a third set (Set C). This new finding offers a whole new analysis of the grammar of this language. Thus, this dissertation exhibits the interaction of these three sets of person markings with grammatical aspect, voice, and information structure. To disentangle these person markings, I offer a detailed description of the grammatical aspect, and as a result, aside of the evidence to demonstrate the existence of Set C, I propose an alternative analysis where Mocho’ exhibits a split aspectual system based on the type of verbal predicate that heads the clause: direct vs “reverse”. To this fact, I also propose that Mocho’ has two types of transitive verbs: direct vs “reverse”, and that they are used complementarily depending on two main constraints that target the A [familiar, animate]. This leads us to propose the existence of four different types of voice in Mocho’: passive vs antipassive, direct vs “reverse” voice. To conclude, I offer a whole picture of the reanalysis of the morphosyntactic alignment of these person markings in these two transitive constructions. I exhibit a tripartite alignment motivated by aspect, an active-stative alignment depending on verbal vs non-verbal predicates, and split ergative “reverse” marking where SAPs align ergative alignment and third person becomes neutral. To comprehend this interaction, it is crucial to look at the naturalistic use of the language to capture the nature of the information flow. Therefore, another contribution of this research is the description of the information structure that Mocho’ utilizes to convey certain types of information (focus, contrastive-focus, and topic).

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