Laura Kalin seminar, Thursday 1/30 at noon

Differential Object Marking: Insight from Neo-Aramaic

Laura Kalin

Thursday, January 30, 12noon
Margaret Jacks Hall, Terrace Room (4th floor)

Differential Object Marking (DOM) is a phenomenon that splits (direct) objects into two classes: in one class are objects that get overtly marked (“prominent”/“non-canonical” objects), and in the other class are ones that do not. On an inclusive conception of DOM, marking may take the form of case, an adposition, agreement, or clitic-doubling. Common factors distinguishing objects are definiteness, specificity, and animacy, with objects ‘high’ on the relevant scale (e.g., more definite) getting marked. Strikingly, DOM tends to be a “parasitic” phenomenon – the overwhelming majority of DOM languages employ a DOM marker that lives a double life, appearing elsewhere without a DOM function (i.e., not appearing based on animacy/definiteness). The most common DOM marker is dative case or a dative adposition, as found in Hindi, Spanish, and certain Neo-Aramaic languages. In the Neo-Aramaic language Telkepe, DOM takes an unusual form: specific objects obligatorily trigger agreement on the verb and are optionally also marked with dative case.

In this talk, I review the different ways that DOM has been accounted for theoretically, and show how some of these accounts fare better (or worse) in Neo-Aramaic; I specifically address how we might account for the tendency for DOM to be parasitic on oblique case. I also propose an account of DOM in the Neo-Aramaic language Telkepe and discuss the obstacles to extending this account to other DOM languages. This is work in progress, and I welcome feedback and suggestions.