Eloise Jelinek, Heidi Harley
In A. Carnie and H. Harley (eds.) Pronouns, presuppositions and hierarchies: The work of Eloise Jelinek in context. 375-388. New York: Routledge
Publication year: 2014

This paper proposes that the Hiaki “passive” suffix –wa is a non-active Voice head, which can usefully be glossed as exist. Langacker (1976) identifies –wa with Uto-Aztecan –tɨwa, ‘be’. This paper surveys the environments in which –wa occurs and situates it within the clausal architecture. It then shows that –wa constructions truly lack a syntactically realized external argument. It identifies ‑wa as a Voice head. Finally, it asserts that the impersonal structure imposed by –wa should be considered a distinct strategy for constructing thetic sentences, in contrast to more well-known strategies from better-studied languages such as using null PRO subjects, overt pleonastic subjects, or dedicated impersonal pronouns in thetic sentences. This paper provides the first in-depth discussion of the morphosyntax and semantics of the Hiaki impersonal. The resulting analysis sheds light on the role of Voice in the verbal architecture crosslinguistically and the syntactic status of the suppressed argument in impersonal constructions.