Many phenomena make reference to both person and animacy — e.g., differential object marking (DOM) and direct-inverse alignment — which typological approaches encode in the Animacy Hierarchy. Within syntactic theory, this relationship is often derived by identifying a shared syntactic locus for person and animacy features, typically within a feature geometry, as in (2) below (Lochbihler 2013, Oxford 2019, Coon & Keine, to appear, a.o.). But why do animacy features collocate with person features, while other φ-features do not? If these could be related to person in the same way, we would expect to find languages with, say, DOM sensitive to gender or number. I investigate the pronominal system of Sierra Zapotec, showing that third person plural pronouns in the language, which encode a four-way animacy distinction, exhibit associativity, a cluster of referential restrictions which also characterize local person plural pronouns (Moravcsik 2003). Building on Harbour’s (2016) theory of person, I advance a plurality-based semantics for animacy capturing its shared properties with person. The compositional mechanism that combines person and animacy features ties them to a single structural locus, enabling an understanding of their shared relevance to syntactic operations.
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