Featuring animacy

  • Elizabeth Ritter Ben Gurion University
Keywords: animacy, Algonquian, Blackfoot, noun classification, aspect


Algonquian languages are famous for their animacy-based grammatical properties—an animacy based noun classification system and direct/inverse system which gives rise to animacy hierarchy effects in the determination of verb agreement. In this paper I provide new evidence for the proposal that the distinctive properties of these languages is due to the use of participant-based features, rather than spatio-temporal ones, for both nominal and verbal functional categories (Ritter & Wiltschko 2009, 2014). Building on Wiltschko (2012), I develop a formal treatment of the Blackfoot aspectual system that assumes a category Inner Aspect (cf. MacDonald 2008, Travis 1991, 2010). Focusing on lexical aspect in Blackfoot, I demonstrate that the classification of both nouns (Seinsarten) and verbs (Aktionsarten) is based on animacy, rather than boundedness, resulting in a strikingly different aspectual system for both categories.