Interaction of ergativity and information structure in Jaminjung (Australia)

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This paper presents a survey of ergativity in in Jaminjung, a language of the small Mirndi family, spoken in northern Australia. It is demonstrated that Jaminjung exhibits morphological but not syntactic ergativity. Overt agent marking, moreover, is not obligatory, and it can be shown that multiple competing factors are responsible for its presence vs. absence. These partly correspond to the factors also identified for split ergative system (person, effectiveness of the event, and to a lesser degree tense/aspect), but information structure also plays an important role in that overt agent marking is much less likely on topics. The implication of the findings is that the use of agent cases in this language is determined neither purely lexically nor purely structurally. It will be argued that a construction-based framework combined with the notion of violable constraints is well suited for the analysis of ergativity in Jaminjung.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Ergativity
EditorsJessica Coon, Diane Massam, Lisa deMena Travis
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198739371
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2017


  • ergativity
  • differential argument marking
  • construction grammar
  • case
  • information structure
  • Australian languages


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