The Origins of Udi Syntax Udi is an endangered language which belongs to the North East Caucasian language family. It has been selected as an object of study because (a) the structures of the languages of this family are different in many ways from those of more familiar languages and therefore can contribute significantly to our understanding of language universals, (b) Udi has a complex morphology, which supplies ready evidence of syntactic relations, and (c) Udi has undergone significant syntactic and morphological change. The project centers on the development of a construction for marking the focus of attention and on the development of moveable agreement (which occurs on a host of any one of many types, including verbs, nouns, pronouns, and adverbs). The project involves study of both syntax and the morphology that is most relevant to that syntax, including agreement and case marking. The objectives of the project include the description and explanation of (a) agreement and complex verb formation as they function in Udi today, (b) the origins of moveable agreement in Udi, (c) origins of complex verbs in Udi and North East Caucasian languages generally, (d) development of the focus construction in Udi and other North East Caucasian languages, (e) origins of changes in case marking patterns. The significance of the project is not limited to the explanation of phenomena particular to Udi and other languages of the North East Caucasian family; rather, these changes will be related to the universals of syntactic change. It is expected that the project will provide (a) an explanation of how word-internal agreement originates, (b) an increased understanding of how case system undergo change, (c) testing of claims made in the recent literature on syntactic change regarding the simplification complex constructions and regarding changes in case marking and agreement patterns, (d) testing of claims regarding the use in syntax of historical methods originally design ed for use in reconstructing phonology.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Catherine N. Ball
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
United States
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