Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka, 2016. “Anti-locality and optimality in Kaqchikel Agent Focus.”
Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 34:2, pages 429–479. DOI: 10.1007/s11049-015-9310-z

Many Mayan languages show a syntactically ergative extraction asymmetry whereby the A-bar-extraction of subjects of transitive verbs requires special verbal morphology, known as Agent Focus. In this paper I investigate the syntax of Agent Focus in Kaqchikel, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. I argue that this extraction asymmetry in Kaqchikel is the result of a particular anti-locality constraint which bans movement that is too close. Support for this claim comes from new data on the distribution of Agent Focus in Kaqchikel that show this locality-sensitivity.

The distribution and realization of Agent Focus will then be modeled using a system of ranked, violable constraints operating over competing derivations. This theoretical choice will be supported by details in the pattern of agreement in Agent Focus. I will then show how rerankings of the proposed constraints can model the attested distribution of Agent Focus in a number of other Mayan languages. I also discuss extensions of this approach to other patterns of anti-agreement.