Referential hierarchies in three-participant constructions in Blackfoot: the effects of animacy, person, and specificity

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Russell, Lena
Genee, Inge
van Lier, Eva
Zúñiga, Fernando
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Dartouth College Library
This paper discusses alignment patterns in three-participant constructions in Blackfoot (Western Algonquian; Canada, USA). We demonstrate the effects of referential hierarchies relating to animacy, person and specificity. Blackfoot verbs stem are subcategorized for transitivity and the animacy of S (for intransitives) and P(atient), R(ecipient), T(heme), or B(eneficiary) (for (di)transitives), showing cross-reference with at most two participants. Nonspecific participants are never cross-referenced, resulting in the possibility of constructions with three or even four participants, only one of which is cross-referenced on the verb. Even when all participants in a three-participant construction are specific, only two can be cross-referenced on the verb: the A and what is generally called the ‘primary object’ in Algonquian studies (T, R or B depending on the specific stem in question). Any remaining participants are not cross-referenced on the verb, irrespective of their specificity status. Whether T, R or B is chosen to be the primary object is lexically determined by the verbal stem, and more in particular by the so-called ‘final’, a derivational morpheme which closes every verb stem in Blackfoot. While Algonquian languages are often thought to display only secundative alignment, in line with the overwhelming importance of animacy in their grammars, we show that some stems require indirective alignment, while others allow for both configurations. Cross-referencing of A and B occurs as a result of applicativization with a benefactive final, which downgrades any potentially present T and/or R participants to non-cross-referenced objects. Finally, Blackfoot allows for a form of marking additional participants by a preverbal element called a ‘relative root’, which licenses a participant without influencing crossreferencing patterns and without indicating the specificity or animacy of the licensed participant.
Open access article. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0) applies
Referential hierarchies , Three-participant , Animacy , Specificity , Person
Russell, L., Genee, I., van Lier, E., & Zúñiga, F. (2012). Referential hierarchies in three-participant constructions in Blackfoot: The effects of animacy, person, and specificity. Linguistic Discovery, 10(3), 55-79.