Speaker: Maria Kouneli
Title: Does Kipsigis have adjectives?
Abstract: It is relatively uncontroversial that nouns and verbs are universal syntactic categories. Adjectives, on the other hand, are more controversial: previous typological studies (e.g. Dixon 1982) have argued that many languages completely lack adjectives as a syntactic category, while recent generative approaches to syntactic categories (e.g. Baker 2003) have argued that adjectives are a universal category, which is, however, subject to significant cross-linguistic variation.In this talk, I present novel data on adjectives in the understudied Nilotic language Kipsigis, which can shed light on the syntax of adjectives cross-linguistically. Firstly, using both morphological and syntactic distribution criteria, I show that adjectives in the language form a morphosyntactic category distinct from verbs and nouns. I also show, however, that they can never directly modify a noun, which is the hallmark property of adjectives in most languages that have them. Kipsigis is, therefore, interesting in having adjectives, but lacking the direct modification type, which raises the question of what determines whether an adjective can directly modify a noun in some languages, but not in others. While I do not have an answer to this question, I argue that adjectives in Kipsigis have exactly the same syntactic distribution and behavior as relative clauses, and present evidence for a head-raising analysis of relative clauses, along the lines of Kayne (1994).