The Northern Iroquoian Nominal Phrase and Linguistic Variation

Michael Barrie
(Sogang University)

I investigate the structure of nominal phrases in Northern Iroquoian languages (mostly Cayuga and Onondaga) and relate this to recent proposals on how variation is constrained. The macroparametric approach (Baker, 2001, 2008) is not only intended to provide an explanation for universal patterns of a large number of properties, it also intends to explain acquisition, a point stressed by Jeong (2016). The Chomsky-Borer Conjecture holds that cross-linguistic variation is restricted to the lexicon (Kayne, 2005). An intermediate approach holds that microparameters are hierarchically arranged, giving rise to tendencies, rather than to all-or-nothing macroparameters (Biberauer and Roberts, 2015, Roberts, 2016). Finally, Richards (2010, 2016) has proposed that much cross-linguistic variation boils down to prosodic properties of languages. On the empirical side, I discuss the morphological structure of the noun, split demonstratives, and floated quantifiers in elucidating the extended nominal phrase of Northern Iroquoian. The analysis of Northern Iroquoian will reveal an extended nominal projection (Grimshaw, 1990, Megerdoomian, 2008, Wiltschko, 2014) that aligns roughly with our expectations of a universal extended nominal projection. I follow this up with a discussion on how agreement and the lack of determiners impinge on the Polysynthesis Parameter (Baker, 1996) and the NP/DP Parameter (Bošković, 2005, 2008), taking seriously the idea that mere analyses provide little insight into the structure of human language, and that analyses must address explanatory adequacy (Chomsky, 1965). I show that the results of this analysis are problematic for strict macroparametric approaches to variation and discuss how the observed variation might fall out from the proposals above. Finally, from a methodological point of view, I defend the practice of examining a single language or group of languages in detail as a sound means of investigating cross-linguistic variation (Davis et al., 2014, Matthewson, 2011).


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