Topics in Oneida

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics


Omer Preminger


Iroquoian, Irrealis, Oneida, VP fronting

Subject Categories

Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures


This thesis explores aspects of Oneida syntax, specifically interrogatives, negative clauses, positive and negative imperatives and the mood phrase. The central claim of this work is the existence of an irrealis morphemekʌ́in Oneida, heading a mood phrase in the following cases: interrogatives, embedded clauses expressing uncertainty and negative imperatives. I have utilized an elicitation methodology, working with a native speaker language consultant to provide natural language data.

The thesis focuses on the question of whether or notkʌ́is an irrealis marker; I am interested in its nature as well as defining the environment in which it appears. Furthermore, this work uncovered scenarios in which an irrealis morpheme would be expected in other languages, but it is not found in Oneida.

A secondary point of investigation in this work involves the analysis of the alternation between the two possible word orders in Oneida, VSO and VOS, in terms of VP-fronting and VP-remnant-fronting (Chung 2006; Clemens & Polinsky to appear; Coon 2010; Landau 2006 among others). Through movement of the element in focus to the specifier position of a focus phrase dominating the mood phrase, and the localization of thekʌ́marking under Mood0, I illustrate a variety of sentence structures in Oneida.

Finally, a third research point is the need for a better description of positive and negative imperative sentences in Oneida. Building off of previous research by Joseph & Philippaki-Warburton (1987), Rivero (1994) and Zanuttini (1997), I propose an explanation of the imperative constructions and associated syntactic movement in Oneida.


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