Languages with applicative morphology vary in whether their applied arguments can stack, or “recurse.” Focusing primarily on Bantu languages, I argue that the availability of applicative recursion in a given language depends on abstract nominal licensing—in particular, on whether the applicative heads responsible for introducing applied arguments are nominal licensers. Applicative recursion therefore provides a novel diagnostic for the presence of abstract nominal licensing, which is argued to be driven not by Case but by ϕ-feature checking. The proposed approach to applicative recursion provides evidence for the role of abstract licensing in Bantu languages and has implications for approaches to double object symmetry as well as for recursion in causatives.

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