Subject preference in Ixcatec relative clauses (Otomanguean, Mexico)

Abstract : Subject preference in relative clauses (RCs) has been reported in typologically diverse languages, but overall one notes that the number of languages analyzed experimentally remains extremely low. This paper presents experimental and natural evidence from Ixcatec, a critically-endangered Otomanguean language. Ixcatec is relevant to the discussion on universal subject preference for having syntactically and morphologically ambiguous subject and object RCs that can offer an unconfounded result. Study 1, a picture-matching comprehension experiment, shows that 63% of the ambiguous RCs are interpreted as subject RCs. Results from reaction times show that subject RC interpretations are numerically faster than object RC interpretations, but this difference does not reach significance. Analysis of a three-hour, free-speech corpus in Study 2 indicates that transitive subject RCs are only slightly more frequent than object RCs. In conclusion, although the Ixcatec data support universal subject preference, they also show how this preference is weaker than predicted.
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Evangelia Adamou. Subject preference in Ixcatec relative clauses (Otomanguean, Mexico). Studies in Language, John Benjamins Publishing, 2017, 41 (4), pp.872-913. ⟨https://benjamins.com/#catalog/journals/sl.16055.ada/details⟩. ⟨hal-01709511⟩

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