The syntax and semantics of applicative morphology in Bantu




Jerro, Kyle Joseph

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This dissertation concerns itself with the applicative morpheme, often analyzed as a valency-increasing morpheme which licenses an additional object to the argument structure of a verb. To date, applicativization has been analyzed as an operation that monotonically adds a new object to the argument structure, with little significant interaction with the verb to which the applicative attaches. However, there are two broad empirical issues with this view. First, there are instances in several languages where the applied variant of a particular verb licenses no additional object, contingent on the choice of verb. Second, the semantic role of the applied object is often conditioned by the meaning of the verb. In this dissertation I propose that applicativization serves fundamentally only to restrict the truth-conditional content of an internal argument of the verb, but that this constraint can be satisfied in various constrained ways on a verb class-by-verb class basis of which canonical object addition is just an option. I present evidence from locative applicatives in Kinyarwanda that the semantic role of the locative applied object, and whether it is even present, is conditioned by the meaning of the verb to which the applicative attaches. Furthermore, I show that the semantics of both verb class and the applicative are important in capturing instrumental applicative-causative syncretism and constraints on what thematic role the applied object of such an applicative will have contingent on the particular verb. Finally, I revisit the question of object symmetry, where I argue that contra the dominant perspective in the literature, there is no universal correlation between a particular syntactic structure or thematic role and any particular symmetry pattern. Instead, I propose that symmetry facts follow on a language by language basis from a variety of factors, such as verb meaning, thematic role, cast of the relevant nouns, and information structure. This semantically-driven framework in which a mélange of other factors conspire to determine symmetry provides a more comprehensive empirical account of the syntactic and semantic nature of applicative morphology in Bantu.



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