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The ergative-antipassive alternation in Inuktitut: Analyzed in a case of new-dialect formation

  • Julien Carrier (a1)

This paper analyzes the ergative-antipassive alternation in Inuktitut using a variationist sociolinguistic approach. This alternation is not a typical linguistic variable, as these constructions are traditionally believed to have different syntactic functions. However, the nature of those functions remains controversial (e.g., Bittner 1987, Manga 1996), and they are undergoing changes in some dialects (e.g., Johns 2001, Carrier 2012), with the antipassive being increasingly used in place of the ergative. Thus, a variationist sociolinguistic approach is employed here to identify the significant functions of these constructions, and to find the specific context where they overlap and the language change is taking place. The study examines data collected in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, which presents a case of new-dialect formation due to the High Arctic relocation. The analysis reveals the functions of these constructions, describes the source of fading ergativity for the dialects considered in this study, and supports Trudgill's (2004) theory on new-dialect formation.

Cet article analyse l'alternance entre les constructions ergative et antipassive en inuktitut suivant une approche sociolinguistique variationniste. Cette alternance ne correspond pas à une variable linguistique typique puisque les fonctions syntaxiques de ces constructions sont traditionnellement considérées comme différentes. Cependant, il existe toujours une polémique sur la nature de ces fonctions (p.ex. Bittner 1987, Manga 1996), et celles-ci subissent présentement des changements dans certains dialectes (p.ex. Johns 2001, Carrier 2012), où la construction antipassive est de plus en plus utilisée, au détriment de la construction ergative. Ainsi, une approche sociolinguistique variationniste est employée ici afin d'identifier les fonctions de ces constructions et le contexte spécifique dans lequel celles-ci se chevauchent et où les changements linguistiques sont en train de se produire. Cette étude examine des données provenant de Resolute Bay, au Nunavut, où un nouveau dialecte de l'inuktitut s'est formé suite à la Délocalisation du Haut-Arctique. L'analyse révèle les fonctions syntaxiques de ces constructions, identifie la source de la perte d'ergativité pour les dialectes examinés dans cette étude, et corrobore la théorie de Trudgill (2004) sur la formation d'un nouveau dialecte.

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This research was supported by the SSHRC Insight Grant Within and Beyond the Inuktitut Word to Alana Johns, by the Northern Scientific Training Program and by a SSHRC Institutional Grant of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto. The present article is a substantially modified version of one I wrote as a requirement for the PhD program at the University of Toronto. I would like to thank the participants, Louisa Sudlovenick Gillespie and the late Saila Michael, for transcribing and translating the recordings; and also Naomi Nagy, Alana Johns and Sali Tagliamonte for their suggestions.

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Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique
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