Expressing reality status through word order : Iquito irrealis constructions in typological perspective

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2011-05

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Hansen, Cynthia Irene Anderson

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Abstract

Iquito, a highly endangered Zaparoan language of the Peruvian Amazon, exhibits a typologically unusual word order alternation that marks the grammatical category of reality status (i.e. the distinction between realized (realis) and unrealized or hypothetical (irrealis) events). This alternation is the only reliable marker of the category; Iquito does not employ morphology to mark the realis/irrealis distinction. While the word order of Iquito realis constructions is reliably SVO, the word order of irrealis constructions does not fall into one of the canonical orders. It is characterized by an element (X) intervening between the subject and the verb, resulting in the order SXV.

In this dissertation, I provide a detailed description and analysis of the realis/irrealis word order alternation. Using data from both elicitation and texts that I collected while in the field, I describe the types of elements that occur in the preverbal position of the irrealis construction, determine what unifies these elements, and establish which element of the sentence will occur in this position and what conditions this choice. Relying on the available data for the other languages in the family, I examine the expression of reality status in these languages and discuss how reality status comes to be associated with word order. I also provide a survey of other languages exhibiting similar word order alternations and discuss how they compare to the alternation we see in Iquito, concluding that Iquito is an example of an “ideal” word order alternation because word order is the sole indicator of the grammatical category with which it is associated.

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