University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This paper addresses the phenomenon of symmetrical objecthood using data from three Panoan languages: Shipibo-Konibo, Cashinawa, and Matsés. Symmetrical objecthood is defined as the possibility for both objects to display the same properties in double object constructions, such as ditransitives and applicatives. My proposal is that the structural Case assigned by a Multiple AGREE operation is responsible for the symmetry between both objects. This is put forth in the following definition: (1) X and Y are equidistant if a head H AGREEs simultaneously with both X and Y. The reasons for this analysis are based on the following: i) The symmetrical properties displayed by the objects imply the movement of the lower object over the higher one. ii) Panoan languages have an ergative-absolutive case marking system, and in double object constructions, the objects display the same case (absolutive). Following Legate 2008, absolutive is a morphological default for accusative in objects and for nominative in intransitive subjects. I assume that object licensing comes from the accusative Case assignment. iii) Multiple AGREE (Hiraiwa 2005) is a single simultaneous syntactic operation: AGREE applies to all the matched goals simultaneously at the same point in the derivation. Thus, in a symmetrical object construction, small v multiply AGREEs with the two objects and simultaneously assigns to them structural accusative Case. This analysis accounts for the following properties: free word order/extraction, reciprocalization, participant agreement (Valenzuela 2002), and others such as passivization and object agreement, which are present marginally in Matsés. For all these properties to take place, equidistance, which follows from (1), is needed to allow either object to display these properties. The paper also discusses the typological consequences of this account, arguing against a phase-based approach.