While we often talk about ergative languages, recent research has shown that ergativity is not monolithic. So-called ergative languages can exhibit ergative patterns across different grammatical domains, and the domains in which ergative patterns expressed are themselves diverse, including case and agreement, pronoun inventories, syntactic extraction asymmetries, and antipassive derivations. Against this backdrop, two questions arise concerning the unity and diversity of ergativity from a crosslinguistic perspective: (i) Is there a coherent set of parameters that can account for the surface diversity of ergative languages, and (ii) Can languages with surface-similar ergative patterns have different underlying grammars?
The McGill Ergativity Lab is dedicated to investigating these varieties of ergativity and their sources. In addition to doing in-depth analyses of ergativity in particular languages, the lab is developing a series of questionnaires for investigating ergativity in a fieldwork setting. In particular, we will be targeting Austronesian and Mayan, two language families exhibiting a rich variety of ergativity, with the goal of cataloging more fined-grained distinctions between ergative languages.