Obviation in Ojibwe & Demonstrative Pronouns in German

Obviation describes a phenomenon prominent in Algonquian languages where third person referents receive additional marking when there is more than one third person referent present in a clause (loosely speaking). However, it also serves certain discourse functions, which makes it difficult to capture in purely syntactic terms. In this collaborative project with Chris Hammerly, we are pursuing the idea that Obviation indicates non-topical status in the discourse, and thus strongly resembles the way demonstrative pronouns in German are used to disambiguate between possible antecedents, opening up an interesting cross-linguistic comparison of manners of encoding information-structural properties.

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