A Question of Alignment VIII: Relativization

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.


Kroeger (1991) observes that in Tagalog, only nominative arguments may be relativized. He refers to Keenan and Comrie (1977)’s accessibility hierarchy of NPs, according to which, he reports, “if only a single argument of any clause can be relativized, that argument must be the subject” (Kroeger 1991: 24). That is, the argument in the main clause which is modified by a relative clause must be the nominative argument, and additionally, Tagalog requires that there must not appear an overt nominative argument in the relative clause itself. The verb in the relative clause carries inflection for the role of the relativized argument in the relative clause, which is itself gapped. Thus, (1a) is grammatical, while (1b) is not.

  1. Tagalog (Kroeger 1991:24, from Foley and Van Valin 1984: 141–142):
    1. bata=ng b-in-igy-an ng=lalake ng=isda

      child=LNK PFV-give-DV GEN=man GEN=fish

      ‘the child which was given fish by the man’

    2. *isda=ng nag-bigay ang=lalake sa=bata

      fish=LNK AV-PFV-give NOM=man DAT=child

Ayeri, however, has no such restrictions. Non-topic NPs may be relativized, and relative clauses not uncommonly contain their own agent NP. The relativized NP may even be referred to in the relative clause by a resumptive pronoun or pronominal clitic, since verbs must not go uninflected. Since all NPs are accessible for relativization, it is not a suitable criterion for testing the subjecthood of what we so far identified as the topic NP.

  1. {Ang ilya} inunley ganyam inunaya si gumasayāng edaya.

    ang=il-ya inun-ley gan-yam inunaya-Ø si gum-asa=yāng edaya

    AT=give-3SG.M fish-P.INAN child-DAT fisherman-TOP REL work-HAB=3SG.M.A here

    ‘The fisherman who used to work here, he gave fish to the child.’

In (2), inunaya ‘the fisherman’, is both the topic of the clause and modified by a relative clause. He is referenced anaphorically by the 3SG.M.A suffix -yāng on the verb in the relative clause, since he is the actor in both. However, as the next examples show, these circumstances are not requirements for grammatical statements.

    1. {Ang ilya} inunaya inunley ganyam si {ang pyabasaye} benanya-hen.

      ang=il-ya inunaya-Ø inun-ley gan-yam si ang=pyab-asa=ye.Ø benan-ya=hen

      AT=give-3SG.M fisherman-TOP fish-P.INAN child-DAT REL AT=pass.by-HAB=3SG.F.TOP morning-LOC=every

      ‘The fisherman, he gave fish to the child which passes by every morning.’

    2. {Ang ilya} inunaya ganyam inunley si petigayāng hiro.

      ang=il-ya inunaya-Ø gan-yam inun-ley si petiga=yāng hiro

      AT=give-3SG.M fisherman-TOP child-DAT fish-P.INAN REL catch=3SG.M.A freshly

      ‘The fisherman, he gave fish which he caught freshly to the child.’

In (3a), the recipient NP ganyam ‘to the child’ is not the topic of the clause, but it is modified by a relative clause anyway. The relativized NP is again represented within the relative clause by means of verb morphology. The topic marker on the verb identifies the person suffix on the verb as the clause’s topic. In (3b), it is likewise not the topic NP which is relativized, but the patient NP inunley ‘fish’. This NP, however, is not represented in the relative clause because the verb does not inflect for the role of the patient, which the relativized NP carries in the relative clause as well. There is no morphology to alter the voice of the verb in such a way that the matrix clause’s patient NP becomes the subject of the relative clause.

  1. {Ang ilya} inunaya ganyam inunley si hiro nay lepan.

    ang=il-ya inunaya-Ø gan-yam inun-ley si hiro nay lepan

    AT=give-3SG.M fisherman-TOP child-DAT fish-P.INAN REL fresh and tasty

    ‘The fisherman, he gave fish which is fresh and tasty to the child.’

Relative clauses in Ayeri may even just consist of a predicative adjective, as (4) illustrates. In these cases, there is no case-marked noun or topic contained in the relative clause.

  • Foley, William A. and Robert D. Van Valin, Jr. Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Print.
  • Keenan, Edward L. and Bernard Comrie. “Noun phrase accessibility and uni­versal grammar.” Linguistic Inquiry 8 (1977): 63–99. Print.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹http://www.gial.edu/wp-content/uploads/paul_kroeger/PK-thesis-revised-all-chapters-readonly.pdf›.

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