Recent NELS talk on Jan 14 by Johanna Benz, Lefteris Paparounas, Martin Salzmann, and Christine Soh Yue: Sakha “say” complementization: A Case-by-Agree approach.
The optional accusative case marking on the subject of Sakha embedded clauses has previously been used as evidence for uniquely a dependent case analysis, given the prima facie absence of a functional head to assign case. We claim that the key to understanding this phenomenon lies in the word “dien.” The Sakha complementizer dien, historically derived from a converbal form of di- ‘to say,’ is identical to this converb di-en ‘say-CVB.’ Based on new fieldwork data, we argue that both elements are present synchronically, and we claim that this exceptional accusative case on embedded subjects is assigned by converb di-en ‘say-CVB.’ We provide several diagnostics to distinguish the complementizer dien from the converb di-en. Comparing the converb construction to sentences with matrix verb ‘say’ and its embedded clause, we argue that accusative case is assigned via ECM from the verb of saying. Furthermore, we look in depth at constructions with intransitive psych predicates and find that both the converb and CP constructions are compatible. Looking at the distribution of accusative case on the embedded subjects of several constructions controlling for this lexical ambiguity, we find that there is no dependent case algorithm that captures the full range of data, while our case-by-Agree analysis does. The present analysis not only reduces accusative case in Sakha embedded subjects to standard verbal object case assignment but also contributes to the discussion on ‘say' complementization, arguing that Sakha has a complementizer that is distinct from the converb form of ‘say’ from which it is derived.