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).
Baker, Mark C. 1996. The Polysynthesis Parameter. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Baker, Mark C. 2001. The Atoms of Language. New York: Basic Books.
Baker, Mark C. 2008. The Macroparameter in a Microparametric World. In The Limits of Syntactic Variation, ed. Theresa Biberauer, 351-374. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Biberauer, Theresa, and Roberts, Ian. 2015. Rethinking formal hierarchies: a proposed unification. Cambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics 7:1-31.
Bošković, Željko. 2005. On the Locality of Left Branch Extraction and the Structure of NP. Studia Linguistica 59:1-45.
Bošković, Željko. 2008. What Will You Have, DP or NP? Paper presented at NELS 37, Amherst, MA.
Chomsky, Noam. 1965. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Davis, Henry, Gillon, Carrie, and Matthewson, Lisa. 2014. How to Investigate Linguistic Diversity: Lessons from the Pacific Northwest. Language 90:180-226.
Grimshaw, Jane. 1990. Argument Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Jeong, Youngmi. 2016. Macroparameters break down under the weight of evidence: The “NP/DP” parameter as a case study. In Rethinking Parameters, eds. Luis Eguren, Olga Fernández-Soriano and Amaya Mendikoetxea, 236-251. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kayne, Richard. 2005. Movement and Silence: Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Matthewson, Lisa. 2011. How (not) to uncover cross-linguistic variation. In NELS 42. University of Toronto.
Megerdoomian, Karine. 2008. Parallel nominal and verbal projections. In Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory: Essays in Honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud, eds. Robert Freidin, Carlos P. Otero and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta, 73-103. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Richards, Norvin. 2010. Uttering Trees. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Richards, Norvin. 2016. Contiguity Theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Roberts, Ian. 2016. Some remarks on parameter hierarchies. In Rethinking Parameters, eds. Luis Eguren, Olga Fernández-Soriano and Amaya Mendikoetxea, 170-199. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wiltschko, Martina. 2014. The Universal Structure of Categories: Towards a Formal Typology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.