Research seminar: Augments and ‘semantic juggling’ in Nata

Joash J. Gambarage will be presenting his research on augments and ‘semantic juggling’ in Nata.



The Nata augment (a.k.a pre-prefix) can be best analyzed semantically as a novel type of determiner–one that marks nominals that assert existence/a non-empty set, paralleling the assertion of existence determiners in St’at’imcets (see Gambarage 2012; in prep; Matthewson 1998; 1999). As a result, an (overt) augment cannot be used: (i) in a negative polarity environment in which a non-empty set cannot be asserted and, (ii) in contexts where a speaker is unable to assert a truth-value of a set (1=TRUE or 0=FALSE). In this talk I focus on nominal expressions that presuppose existence, i.e., those used with universal quantifiers or demonstratives, but still appear without an (overt) augment, (1a).


1.     a. Tanyi βí-ɲoɲi βj-ɔɔsɛ́ βe-ɲi mo=o=mo-oté          [Presupposition: there are birds]

Not    C8-bird C8-all  C8-be C8=D=C3-tree

‘Not all birds are in the tree’


b. %Tanyi e=βí-ɲoɲi   βj-ɔɔsɛ́ βe-ɲi   mo=o=mo-oté

Not     D=C8-bird C8-all  C8-be C8=D=C3-tree

‘Not all the birds are in the tree.’


c. e=βí-ɲoɲi, taɲí βj-ɔɔsɛ́ βee-ɲi mo=o=mo-oté

D=C8-bird not C8-all C8-be C8=D=C3-tree

‘As for the birds, not all (of them) are in the tree’


d. *βí-ɲoɲi, taɲí βj-ɔɔsɛ́ βee-ɲi mo=o=mo-oté

C8-bird   not C8-all   C8-be C8=D=C3-tree

Intended: ‘As for the birds, not all (of them) are in the tree’


I present a variety of fieldwork data and argue that even though speakers seem to use (1a) and (1b) in the same context-of-use, Nata speakers show a flip-flop behavior in which they only imply that a set that is quantified over scopes under NEG (hence is empty) when they say (1a) (i.e., a set with all birds sitting in the tree is missing; ¬∀ DP), and that when they use (1b-c) they are pointing to what is at issue (i.e., they are asserting/ presupposing the existence of birds; DP ¬∀). I dub the phenomenon ‘semantic juggling’ where I claim that DPs implying an empty set are universally low scope with respect to NEG, and DPs asserting existence are always wider scope, hence e=βí-ɲoɲi βj-ɔɔsɛ́ ‘all (the) birds’ in (1b-c) does not scope under NEG (cf. Matthewson 1998; 1999). I present data from Zulu, Kinande, and Luganda where I show that these languages exhibit juggling of similar cases to (1a) vs. (1c), and hence can be analyzed using the same mechanism.



Gambarage, J.J. (2012). Context-of-Use of Augmented and Unaugmented Nouns in Nata. UBC

Working Papers in Linguistics.

——————-(in prep). Augments, Argumenthood, and Assertion of Existence in Nata. PhD
Thesis. University of British Columbia.

Matthewson, L. (1998). “Determiner Systems and Quantificational Strategies: Evidence from

Salish”. Holland Academic Graphics, The Hague.

——————–. (1999). On the Interpretation of Wide Scope Indefinites. Natural Language

Semantics 7, 79–134