A set-based semantics for obviation and animacy


This paper provides a general analysis of the semantics of person, broadly construed, through a case study of Ojibwe (Central Algonquian). Ojibwe shows person-like distinctions based on whether an entity is living or non-living (i.e. animacy), and, within living things, whether a being is prominent or backgrounded in the discourse (i.e. obviation). The central principle of the account is contrast: The activation and interpretation of a feature is driven by the requirement that it makes a cut to derive the proper categories within a given inventory. With this principle, I show that a small set of bivalent features denoting first-oder predicates can capture Ojibwe as well as a wider typology of person, animacy, obviation, and noun classification distinctions.

To appear in Language
Christopher M. Hammerly
Christopher M. Hammerly
Assistant Professor

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