9798 - Animacy maximization/Inanimacy minimization: a view into the Innu language (Algonquian)

This paper addresses the question of the differential effects induced by the semantics of nominals on the grammar of a given language. More specifically we investigate how the hierarchy of animacy ('human>animate>inanimate>abstract': Siewierska 2004) shapes the grammar of Innu (a.k.a. Montagnais), an Algonquian language spoken by over 10 000 speakers in North Eastern Quebec and Labrador in Canada.

Although this topic has been widely investigated cross-linguistically in the recent years, it has not been studied in a comprehensive manner for the Innu language (Aissen 2003; de Swart, Lamers et al. 2008; Kittilä 2008). We will attempt to present a range of grammatical phenomena in the language which crucially exhibit ‘animacy’ effects. Following Anderson (1997), we will show ‘animacy maximization’ in different areas of the grammar through differential object marking, raising to object constructions, possessor and other so-called ‘relational’ (Junker 2003) applicatives, but also the existence of constructions that are aimed at ‘minimizing’ inanimates, in impersonal verbs, classifier use and agency-related processes.

Aissen, J. (2003). "Differential Object Marking: Iconicity vs Economy." Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 21(3): 435-483.

Anderson, G. D. S. (1997). "On "Animacy Maximization in Fox (Mesquakie)." International Journal of American Linguistics 63(2): 227.

de Swart, P., M. Lamers, et al. (2008). "Animacy, argument structure, and argument encoding." Lingua 118(2): 131-140.

Junker, M.-O. (2003). "East Cree Relational Verbs." International Journal of American Linguistics 69(3): 307-329.

Kittilä, S. (2008). Animacy effects on differential Goal marking. Linguistic Typology, De Gruyter. 12: 245-268.

Siewierska, A. (2004). Person. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Keywords: animacy, Innu, Algonquian

Author: Drapeau, Lynn (Departement de linguistique, UQAM, Canada / Kanada)


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