The subject domain in Cabo-Verdean Creole : combining variationist sociolinguistics and formal approaches

Date

2019-12-09

Authors

Rodríguez-Riccelli, Adrian

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Abstract

This dissertation explores Subject Pronoun Expression (SPE) in Cabo-Verdean Creole (CVC), a Portuguese-based language spoken in the Republic of Cabo Verde. The CVC subject domain has at least three types of nominative anaphora: a subject clitic, a null subject, and a double-subject construction. This study is the first to examine the distribution of these subject categories by combining a quantitative methodology with formal syntactic theory, as well as insights from functionalist, usage-based, cognitive linguistic, and typological approaches. In so doing, it offers a new perspective on this issue that is intended to move the field past protracted theoretical debates over the morphosyntactic status and discursive functions of these grammatical elements. For instance, the formal category underlying subject clitics has been contested in CVC and cross-linguistically; some have claimed that they are independent pronouns that cliticize at the phonological level (Déprez 1994; De Cat 2005; Costa & Pratas 2013), others have identified them as inflectional affixes in the VP layer (DeGraff 1993; Baptista 1995; Culbertson 2010), while in language typology they are analyzed as ‘person markers’ that can engage in local grammatical agreement or nonlocal anaphoric agreement (Bresnan & Mchombo 1987; Zribi-Hertz & Diagne 2002; Siewierska 2004; Creissels 2005; Kari 2017). Sociolinguistic interviews and picture description narratives were collected from native speakers of CVC from the islands of Santiago and Maio. Sampled speech was transcribed prosodically (Chafe 1993; Du Bois et al. 1993; Torres Cacoullos & Travis 2019) in order to evaluate several aspects of discourse organization. Data were submitted to descriptive and inferential inspection in four analyses using R (R Core Team 2019): one was an exploratory test that served to delimit the variable context for SPE in CVC, the second involved a fixed-effects multinomial logistic regression, and the third and fourth were based on mixed-effects binomial logistic regressions. Results revealed highly significant effects for linguistic structural priming: double-subject and singleton tonic pronouns primed subsequent double-subjects, while null subjects primed additional null subjects. Lexical Determiner Phrase (DP) antecedents that were semantically referentially deficient (i.e. they bore inanimate, indefinite, or nonspecific reference) also promoted anaphoric zeros. These results lend partial support to the claims regarding the semantic properties of strong pronominals proposed under the Typology of Structural Deficiency (Cardinaletti & Starke 1994, 1999), and suggest that, as in Brazilian Portuguese, there is an “avoid referentially deficient pronoun” constraint (Kato & Duarte 2003, 2005; Duarte & Soares da Silva 2016) that is probabilistically active in CVC. The zero-to-zero priming effect and the favoring effect from referentially deficient lexical DPs were only active at short anaphoric distances, and were promoted when adjacent intonational units were prosodically linked or simultaneously prosodically and syntactically linked (Torres Cacoullos & Travis 2019). The priming effect for double-subjects obtained at longer anaphoric distances; they are promoted when their antecedent is in a non-adjacent clause. Results suggest that double-subjects function as switch-reference devices, can establish contrastive focus, and reintroduce old discourse referents. These are much the same functional and discursive values that singleton tonic pronouns have cross-linguistically (Givón 1976; 2001[1984]; 2017). The realization of zero subjects is mostly contingent on antecedent accessibility (Givón 1976; 2017, Ariel 1990), but is also modulated by the aforementioned “avoid referentially deficient pronoun” constraint. Inferring from the results for zero and double-subjects, it appears that CVC subject clitics are ‘ambiguous person agreement markers’ (Bresnan & Mchombo 1987; Siewierska 2004): like independent pronouns, they engage in nonlocal anaphoric agreement, but like inflectional affixes, they also engage in local grammatical agreement. This in-between morphosyntactic status is related to the infinitival origin of CVC verbs (Quint 2008b): the absence of bound person-number inflection is likely to have initiated grammaticalization on tonic pronouns, causing them to be eroded into subject clitics, and eventually become ambiguous person agreement markers, which are probabilistically dropped according to the properties of their controllers and the dynamics of antecedent accessibility. In line with Wratil’s (2011) ‘Null Subject Cycle’, it could be argued that CVC subject clitics are grammatical elements that have stagnated at an early stage of a grammaticalization cline, which entails the transformation of independent pronouns into clitics, and then eventually into bound affixes. Sociolinguistic interviews and picture description narratives were collected from native speakers of CVC from the islands of Santiago and Maio. Sampled speech was transcribed prosodically (Chafe 1993; Du Bois et al. 1993; Torres Cacoullos & Travis 2019) in order to evaluate several aspects of discourse organization. Data were submitted to descriptive and inferential inspection in four analyses using R (R Core Team 2019): one was an exploratory test that served to delimit the variable context for SPE in CVC, the second involved a fixed-effects multinomial logistic regression, and the third and fourth were based on mixed-effects binomial logistic regressions. Results revealed highly significant effects for linguistic structural priming: double-subject and singleton tonic pronouns primed subsequent double-subjects, while null subjects primed additional null subjects. Lexical Determiner Phrase (DP) antecedents that were semantically referentially deficient (i.e. they bore inanimate, indefinite, or nonspecific reference) also promoted anaphoric zeros. These results lend partial support to the claims regarding the semantic properties of strong pronominals proposed under the Typology of Structural Deficiency (Cardinaletti & Starke 1994, 1999), and suggest that, as in Brazilian Portuguese, there is an “avoid referentially deficient pronoun” constraint (Kato & Duarte 2003, 2005; Duarte & Soares da Silva 2016) that is probabilistically active in CVC. The zero-to-zero priming effect and the favoring effect from referentially deficient lexical DPs were only active at short anaphoric distances, and were promoted when adjacent intonational units were prosodically linked or simultaneously prosodically and syntactically linked (Torres Cacoullos & Travis 2019). The priming effect for double-subjects obtained at longer anaphoric distances; they are promoted when their antecedent is in a non-adjacent clause. Results suggest that double-subjects function as switch-reference devices, can establish contrastive focus, and reintroduce old discourse referents. These are much the same functional and discursive values that singleton tonic pronouns have cross-linguistically (Givón 1976; 2001[1984]; 2017). The realization of zero subjects is mostly contingent on antecedent accessibility (Givón 1976; 2017, Ariel 1990), but is also modulated by the aforementioned “avoid referentially deficient pronoun” constraint. Inferring from the results for zero and double-subjects, it appears that CVC subject clitics are ‘ambiguous person agreement markers’ (Bresnan & Mchombo 1987; Siewierska 2004): like independent pronouns, they engage in nonlocal anaphoric agreement, but like inflectional affixes, they also engage in local grammatical agreement. This in-between morphosyntactic status is related to the infinitival origin of CVC verbs (Quint 2008b): the absence of bound person-number inflection is likely to have initiated grammaticalization on tonic pronouns, causing them to be eroded into subject clitics, and eventually become ambiguous person agreement markers, which are probabilistically dropped according to the properties of their controllers and the dynamics of antecedent accessibility. In line with Wratil’s (2011) ‘Null Subject Cycle’, it could be argued that CVC subject clitics are grammatical elements that have stagnated at an early stage of a grammaticalization cline, which entails the transformation of independent pronouns into clitics, and then eventually into bound affixes.

Description

LCSH Subject Headings

Citation