Cross-linguistic Variation in Differential Subject Marking
The phenomenon known as Differential Subject Marking (DSM) may take many forms. First of all, languages differ in which conditions govern DSM. Some languages differentiate their subjects on the basis of the form, such as being a pronoun or not, others on the basis of semantic features such as being a real agent (volitional, in control) or not, and still others distinguish their subjects on the basis of clausal features such as tense/aspect/mood or the main/dependent clause distinction. Secondly, DSM comes in different formal guises: case marking, agreement, inverse systems, voice alternations.
Although relatively much is known about the cross-linguistic variation we find in the marking of subjects (see Dixon 1994; Aikhenvald, Dixon, and Onishi 2001 for an overview), relatively little attempt has been made to formalize the facts (see Aissen 1999). The present volume is an attempt to unify formal approaches to language with the typological enterprise. In the spirit of this project both specific case studies of DSM and theoretical approaches to the data are presented. In this introductory chapter, we will demonstrate how the respective chapters fit this general enterprise.
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