Referential Hierarchy Effects on Grammar: Toward a Unifying Functional Approach

Carmen Jany


It is still unclear whether grammatical systems based on referential hierarchies should be treated as an alignment type in its own right (Nichols 1992, Siewierska 2005, Zúñiga 2006), viewed in terms of voice (Givón 1994, Shibatani 2006), or analyzed based on the properties of individual systems (Bickel 2008). This paper examines referential hierarchy effects on grammatical marking in 45 languages showing that all systems can be explained in terms of subjectivity, politeness, and topicality, and that in different languages these functions are fulfilled in structurally distinct ways conditioned by genetic inheritance and contact�induced change, consequently supporting Bickel’s idiosyncratic approach.

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