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Colloquium: Justin Royer

February 17, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Speaker: Justin Royer (UC Berkeley)

Title: Binding and anti-cataphora in Mayan


The Binding Conditions are widely held to reflect a universal property of human language (e.g., Reinhart 1983; Grimshaw & Rosen 1990; Grodzinsky & Reinhart 1993; Reuland 2010, 2011). Yet, some Mayan languages seem to consistently violate them, casting doubt on a universal approach (e.g., Craig 1977; Hoekstra 1989; Aissen 2000). In this talk, I argue that what appear to be binding violations are, in fact, not, and Mayan languages do indeed support Binding Theory. Crucially, the Mayan languages that show apparent binding violations (like Chuj, but not Ch’ol) are also those that exhibit syntactic ergativity. Embracing the ‘standard approach’ to syntactic ergativity (Campana 1992; Bittner & Hale 1996; Coon et al. 2014; Deal 2016), I argue that objects undergo systematic inversion with the subject in such languages. This alters structural relations between the object and the subject, explaining the surprising binding patterns. I also show that linear precedence plays a fundamental role in regulating the distribution of coreferential nominals across Mayan, which I argue is due to a general ban on cataphora for ‘free’ pronouns. The data are thus not only consistent with Binding Theory, but provide further evidence in favor of a deep typological parameter within the Mayan language family.


February 17, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm