[ p. 233 ]Losing their (passive) voice
Syntactic neutralization in heritage German
This paper reports initial findings on the apparent loss of passive voice constructions in Moundridge Schweitzer German, a moribund enclave dialect spoken in South Central Kansas. The dialect once had three agent-suppressing constructions; today speakers produce only an impersonal construction but marginally recognize one passive construction in comprehension tasks. Comparative and internal evidence suggests a clear path for this development qua syntactic extension. Empirically, numerous heritage and moribund languages lose passive constructions, and our account appears extendable to those settings in ways that illuminate some claims about heritage language syntax. The synchronic outcomes are easily modeled using the notion of syntactic neutralization, and we argue that a neutralization approach to syntactic ineffability has significant advantages over a NULL PARSE approach. Since the latter is Optimality Theory (OT)-specific, we model our findings in OT. Because neutralization is a framework-independent concept, our findings have broader ramifications.
Keywords: passive, syntactic neutralization, syntactic extension, production/comprehension asymmetries, ineffability, heritage languages, moribund languages, Germanic
Published online: 17 May 2013
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