Faculty member Michelle Yuan has a new paper in Language:
Yuan, Michelle. 2022. Ergativity and object movement across Inuit. Language 98(3): 510-551. doi: https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.0.0270
Although the Inuit language is generally characterized as ergative, it has been observed that the ergative case patterning is relatively weaker in certain Eastern Canadian varieties, resulting in a more accusative appearance (e.g. Johns 2001, 2006, Carrier 2017). This article presents a systematic comparison of ergativity in three Inuit varieties, as a lens into the properties of case alignment and clause structure in Inuit more broadly. Building on the previous insight that ergativity in Inuit is tied to object movement to a structurally high position (Bittner 1994, Bittner & Hale 1996a,b, Woolford 2017), I demonstrate that the relative robustness of the ergative patterning across Inuit is tightly correlated with the permissibility of object movement—and not determined by the morphosyntactic properties of ERG subjects, which are uniform across Inuit. I additionally relate this correlation to another point of variation across Inuit concerning the status of object agreement as affixes vs. pronominal clitics (Yuan 2021). These connections offer testable predictions for the status of ergativity across the entire Inuit dialect continuum and yield crosslinguistic implications for the typology of case alignment, especially in how it interacts with the syntactic position of nominals.