PhD Research School in Linguistics and Philology

Nazareth Amlesom Kifle

Tigrinya applicatives in Lexical-Functional Grammar

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Initial project description

"My project aims at analyzing applicative constructions in Tigrinya within the LFG (Lexical Functional Grammar) framework. Tigrinya is a Semitic language spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Applicative constructions result from a morphosyntactic operation that is applied on the verb in order to promote a semantic argument, not otherwise required by the lexical verb, to core argument object status. Applicative constructions have played an important role for the development of various syntactic theories which have been focusing on argument structure devices in the Bantu languages. The applicative rule is a very productive morphosyntactic operation in Tigrinya although in traditional descriptions of the language the term itself has never been used.

This morphosyntactic operation is accomplished by adding a pronominal agreement morpheme for an applied object (AO) on a verb. As a result, the argument structure of the applied verb has been augmented with an additional object argument, in addition to the verbal object (VO that is an object lexically subcategorized for by the verb). This derivation applies to a range of semantic roles such as a recipient, goal, source, beneficiary, maleficiary, locative or instrumental. Applicative constructions pose a typical argument-function mapping problem similar to dative shift in languages such as English and Chichewa. In regard to applicative constructions, what is at stake is the category and status of the AO and the VO when they co-occur in the same clause. In LFG these constructions are treated as lexical processes, and the development of Lexical Mapping Theory (LMT) within the LFG framework has made a remarkable advancement for the understanding of the principles and constraints that govern the mapping of arguments to their respective grammatical functions. Thus, in the analysis of Tigrinya applicative constructions I will adopt the LMT to examine the relationship between the arguments of the predicator and the object functions involved.

Therefore, this project has the following main objective. First, since there is no prior research on Tigrinya applicative constructions, applicative constructions will be described and classified. Second, object functions will be examined in terms of their mophosyntactic properties. Third, morphosyntactic rules that determine the mapping of object arguments to grammatical functions will be formulated. In addition, the grammar of applicative constructions will be implemented in XLE (Xerox Linguistic Environment), a linguistic platform for the development of grammars within the LFG formalism."

Amlesom Kifle successfully defended her thesis on 20 January 2012.