A set-based semantics for obviation and animacy


This paper provides an analysis of the semantics of obviation and animacy through a case study of Ojibwe (Central Algonquian). I develop a lattice-based characterization of possible person, obviation, and animacy categories, showing that the addition of two binary features, [+/-Proximate] and [+/-Animate], captures the six-way distinction of Ojibwe. These features denote first-order predicates formed from subsets of an ontology of person primitives, with composition and interpretation defined by (i) the functional sequence of the nominal spine, (ii) the denotation of feature values, and (iii) the theory of contrastive interpretations. I show that alternative accounts based in lattice actions or feature geometries cannot capture the partition of Ojibwe, and offer extensions of the proposed system to noun classification in Zapotec, Romance, and Bantu.

Christopher M. Hammerly
Christopher M. Hammerly
Postdoctoral Fellow

My research interests include syntax and morphology, particularly the interface between our grammatical knowledge and processing abilities.