I am currently investigating the left periphery and patterns of A’-extraction in Toba Batak, an understudied Austronesian language of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Contrary to the claims of previous work on the language, I show that multiple DPs can be simultaneously fronted, though only in limited configurations. I argue that the heads C and T are present in Toba Batak, with their traditional division of labor, but extraction patterns are restricted by the limited means of nominal (Case)-licensing in the language. In addition, the features of C and T have the option of residing on a single head (so-called “joint” or “bundled” CT) and probing together for the joint satisfaction of their probes, in a manner that inherits properties of both C and T. This study sheds light on the relationship between western Austronesian voice system languages and the left periphery in other language families.

I am also working with Theodore Levin and Coppe van Urk on developing a more general framework in which to think about Austronesian voice systems. Austronesian “voice” systems commonly exhibit a one-to-one correspondence between “voice” morphology on the verb, morphological case on nominals, and the availability of A’-movement. Based on cases where this correspondance breaks down, as well as on variation across Austronesian in the realization of this voice system, we argue that voice morphology is extraction marking, reflecting the choice of argument moved to a particular position. We explain the effects of voice on case marking by proposing that the relevant position is a mixed A/A’-position, where the external argument can receive Case. Voices where the external argument does not move to this position, then, require a separate mechanism to license the external argument.

This current work builds on my previous investigation of voice and subjecthood in Atayal, an endangered Atayalic language of Taiwan. I studied Squliq Atayal while on a Fulbright fellowship in Taiwan in 2007–2008 and also during summer 2012 funded by an NSF East Asian/Pacific Institute award. The sentence-final “subject” position in Atayal can be optionally marked by qu, which has traditionally been described as a nominative/absolutive case marker. However, I show that when the subject of the clause (as determined by Voice morphology on the verb) is displaced, another specific, non-subject argument can be marked by qu. I argue that the qu marker on sentence-final arguments is an information-structual marker of topic, rather than a case marker.

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