An Itsy-Bitsy Problem: Asymmetric extraction from coordination in Khoehkoegowab


Khoekhoegowab (Central Khoesan, Namibia) allows a heretofore-unreported predicate coordination construction in which items from the first conjunct may be extracted to the prefield, apparently violating the Coordinate Structure Constraint and stranding the shared subject of the sentence inside the first conjunct. I show, based on original fieldwork, that the Khoekhoegowab construction closely parallels the 'Subject Gap in Finite Clause' (SGF) construction found in many Germanic languages, which also fronts a non-subject XP into the prefield and strands the subject in the middlefield of the first conjunct. Khoekhoegowab is the first non-Germanic language reported to have this construction. I show that Khoekhoe provides evidence that the conjuncts in SGF constructions must be small, and that whatever allows us to escape the Coordinate Structure Constraint in these contexts must be in the narrow syntax, not at PF or LF. In particular, there really does seem to be an asymmetry between the conjuncts which multiple processes in the language are sensitive to, forcing us to take seriously the notion that coordination in these langauges is truly asymmetric. But this raises a deeper, typological question: Why should only these languages allow this kind of coordination?

Presented at the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 36, held at UCLA