When arguments become adjuncts: Split configurationality in Leggbó
Leggbó is an Upper Cross language of the Niger-Congo family spoken by about 60,000 people in southeastern Nigeria. In affirmative sentences, it shows SVO word order, but in negative sentences, it shows SOV order. Comparable word-order shifts have been documented in other West African languages (Koopman 1984, Baker and Kandybowicz 2002). However, the properties of this word-order shift in Leggbó, though superficially similar to these other reported cases, show that it is of a previously unattested type. The primary goal of this paper is to present evidence for an analysis of the syntax of negative sentences in the language wherein the arguments of negative verbs are preposed and adjoined to the left edge of their sentence. The primary support for this analysis will come from the fact that Leggbó affirmatives show syntactic behavior roughly akin to SVO sentences of the sort found in English, while negatives show such different syntactic behavior that not only is there no clear evidence for particular argument positions in them, but they also do not seem to contain a VP constituent at all. An implication of this characterization of Leggbó syntax is that the language is exhibiting a typologically rare phenomenon which can usefully be labeled split configurationality. Affirmative sentences, on the one hand, appear to have configurational structure, insofar as the arguments of affirmative verbs will be seen to have specific, syntactically-defined positions. Negative sentences, on the other hand, appear to have non-configurational structure insofar as arguments of negative verbs will be shown to be placed in adjunct positions and, therefore, are not associated with any particular positions in the syntactic structure. The only other clear case I am aware of such an extreme split in configurationality is found in the Cariban languages of South America as described by Gildea (2000).