Henry Thomas Davis


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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
The Online Linguistic Database: Software for Linguistic Fieldwork (2015)

The documentation and analysis of endangered languages is a core component of the linguistic endeavour. Language consultants and linguistic researchers collaborate to generate a variety of data which in turn fuel theoretical discovery and language revitalization. This dissertation describes and evaluates a piece of software designed to facilitate new, and enhance existing, collaboration, documentation, and analysis. But beyond this, it argues for the value of a certain methodological approach to linguistics broadly construed, one in which computation is key and where provisions are made for collaboration, data-sharing and data reuse. The Online Linguistic Database (OLD) is open source software for creating web applications that facilitate collaborative linguistic fieldwork. The OLD allows fieldworkers to continue doing what they are already doing—eliciting, transcribing, recording, and analyzing forms and creating data sets and papers with them—but collaboratively. This point should not be understated: though practises are changing, linguistic fieldwork currently involves a loose network of relatively isolated practitioners and data sets; simply creating the infrastructure for collaboration and data-sharing is half the battle. The other half is creating features and conveniences that make the software worth using. In this domain, the OLD provides automated feedback on lexical consistency of morphological analyses, sophisticated search, the creation and (structural) searching of arbitrarily many corpora and treebanks, and the specification and computational implementation of models of the lexicon, phonology, and morphology, upon which are built practical morphological parsers. The dissertation describes the OLD, motivating its design decisions and arguing that it has the potential to contribute positively to the achievement of the three core goals of linguistic fieldwork, namely documentation, research, and language revitalization. Particular attention is paid to the practical and research-related advantages of the morphophonological modelling capability with examples and evaluations of morphological parsers created for the Blackfoot language.

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Predication and equation in Okanagan Salish: the syntax and semantics of determiner phrases (2014)

This dissertation investigates the syntax and semantics of equative structures (i.e. DP-DP structures and clefts) in the little studied and highly endangered Upper Nicola dialect of Okanagan Salish (a.k.a. Nsyílxcən), and represents the first detailed investigation of equatives in a Salish language. From the theoretical perspective, Okanagan is noteworthy since there is no evidence for a predicational copula (contra Baker 2003, Adger & Ramchand 2003) while there is evidence for a null equative copula (Heycock & Kroch 1999), thereby supporting theories which argue for a structural distinction between predication and equation.Okanagan does not have an overt copula (A. Mattina 2001), yet does have sentences consisting only of two determiner phrases (DPs) (''DP-DP structures''). These exhibit a word order restriction which is absent from predications involving other syntactic categories, such that in answer to a WH-question, a directly referential demonstrative or proper name must precede a DP headed by the determiner iʔ (an ''iʔ DP''). The implication is that specificational sentences (Higgins 1973) are not possible in Okanagan. Given that iʔ DPs permit intensional readings, and that iʔ DPs never denote sets (Longobardi 1994, Matthewson 1998), I claim that the Okanagan equative head maps the intension of an individual to its extension, and is of type ,> (Romero 2005, Comorovski 2007). Since there are no specificational sentences in Okanagan, and the equivalent of Higgins' identificational sentence class (e.g. 'That is John' in English) pattern with copula-less, direct predications in Okanagan, the data support reducing Higgins' taxonomy to only two types for Okanagan: predicational and equative (Heller 2005).I claim that Okanagan clefts are also equative structures, based on evidence that clefts consist of two DPs and carry an implicature of exhaustivity (Davis et. al. 2004). This implicature stems from the maximality implicature carried by the determiner iʔ which introduces the second DP (i.e. the residue). My analysis runs parallel to theories of English clefts which align cleft semantics to the semantics of determiners (Percus 1997, Hedberg 2000).

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ntonation and Focus in Nlhe7kepmxcin (Thompson River Salish) (2008)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Quantifiers in Kwak'wala (2016)

This thesis describes and analyzes the syntax and semantics of quantification in Kwak’wala, a Northern Wakashan language spoken on Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland of British Columbia. In standard accounts of quantification, quantifiers can be divided into two categories: strong quantifiers and weak quantifiers (Barwise and Cooper (1981), Keenan (1996), Milsark (1979), Partee (1988)). Taking the strong/weak distinction as a starting point, this thesis documents the syntactic and semantic features of Kwak’wala quantifiers, focusing on wi'la (‘all’), ḵ̓ina̱m (‘many’), and numerals, and examining their behavior at the syntax-semantics interface. In line with Milsark’s predictions, only the Kwak’wala equivalent of English weak quantifiers are allowed to stand as main predicates in sentences which are the equivalents of existential sentences in English.This thesis describes the distinction between strong and weak readings for the weak quantifier ḵ̓ina̱m (‘many’): there is no correlation between its positions and strong vs. weak interpretations, except in sentences which are the equivalent of existential sentences in English. The lack of a correlation between interpretation and DP-internal position is different from the prediction of standard accounts of quantification, by e.g. Partee (1988).This thesis also investigates quantifier scope. I show that Kwak’wala has collective, distributive, and cumulative readings. The presence of distributive and inverse distributive readings shows that this language possesses quantifiers which undergo real scopal interactions (unlike, for example, St'át'imcets as shown by Davis (2010)). Errata: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/59606

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Coeur dAlene Aspect (2014)

This thesis examines the grammatical aspect markers of an extremely endangered language, Coeur d’Alene. Coeur d’Alene is a Southern Interior Salish language spoken by two remaining fluent speakers in Northern Idaho. The Coeur d’Alene aspect system has not previously been subject to a formal analysis. There are three grammatical aspects in the language, traditionally called the completive (∅), customary (ʔec-) and continuative (ʔic-). In this thesis I reanalyze the completive as a standard perfective, the customary as a general imperfective and the continuative as a progressive. The thesis provides data on the different readings that these grammatical aspects induce on the four Vendlerian verb classes of activities, states, accomplishments and achievements. I adopt the semantics used by Bar-el (2005), who follows the formal model of aspect laid out by Rothstein (2004) to analyze the Squamish language.

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Nominalization and Voice in Kwak'wala (2014)

Kwak̓wala appears to give privileged status to the syntactic position of subject in the formation of several clause types that rely on extraction; that is to say, the subject is the only element which can be A'-extracted to form relative clauses, WH-questions, and cleft sentences. For this reason, it has been claimed that any constituent which is not the subject must first become the subject in order to be extracted. This is achieved by marking the predicate of the clause with one of several suffixes which have variously been termed passive markers, focus markers, and nominalizers. This thesis argues that the supposedly unique behaviour of the subject is a result of restrictions against extraction of case-marked DPs, and shows that non-subject constituents which are not case-marked can extract without first being promoted to subject position. Furthermore, I argue that nominalization is the most satisfactory analysis of the suffixes which allow DPs that would otherwise be case-marked to surface as subjects. This account is particularly useful in accounting for the behaviour and distribution of the suffix -nukw, which has what appear to be two different functions (indicating possession and indefinite objects), and which defies explanation according to both of the predominant theories of passive formation (Baker, Johnson & Roberts 1989; Collins 2005). I further argue that, of the eight suffixes I consider, only seven display sufficient syntactic similarities to be considered a single class of affixes. The eighth is not only distinct in its behaviour, but is also the only one which targets non-subjects that are not case-marked. Finally, I consider how my proposed structure for Kwak̓wala compares to analyses for Austronesian languages, and particularly Tagalog, which has been observed to have similar patterns of extraction.

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Verb classes in Kwak'wala (2013)

This thesis examines the aspectual system of Kwaḱwala, a Northern Wakashan language of British Columbia. I explore both the lexical and grammatical aspect system, and the interaction between the two systems. Instead of the traditional Vendlerian verb classes of states, activities, accomplishments and achievements, I propose that Kwaḱwala employs just three verb classes: states, processes and transitions. With regard to the grammatical aspect system, this thesis focuses on the description and analysis of the aspect suffix -x'id. I propose that this suffix is a perfective suffix which asserts only that an initial transition into an event has occurred within reference time. The thesis also offers a brief description of the contemporary Kwaḱwala tense system as well as the continuous aspect suffix, -ala.

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