Decomposing hierarchical alignment : Co-arguments as conditions on alignment and the limits of referential hierarchies as explanations in verb agreement

Apart from common cases of differential argument marking, referential hierarchies affect argument marking in two ways: (a) through hierarchical marking, where markers compete for a slot and the competition is resolved by a hierarchy, and (b) through co-argument sensitivity, where the marking of one argument depends on the properties of its co-argument. Here we show that while co-argument sensitivity cannot be analyzed in terms of hierarchical marking, hierarchical marking can be analyzed in terms of co-argument sensitivity. Once hierarchical effects on marking are analyzed in terms of co-argument sensitivity, it becomes possible to examine alignment patterns relative to referential cate- gories in exactly the same way as one can examine alignment patterns relative to referential categories in cases of differential argument marking and indeed any other condition on alignment (such as tense or clause type). As a result, instances of hierarchical marking of any kind turn out not to present a special case in the typology of alignment, and there is no need for positing an addi- tional non-basic alignment type such as “ hierarchical alignment ” . While hier- archies are not needed for descriptive and comparative purposes, we also cast doubt on their relevance in diachrony: examining two families for which hier- archical agreement has been postulated, Algonquian and Kiranti, we find only weak and very limited statistical evidence for agreement paradigms to have been shaped by a principled ranking of person categories.


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