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Re: THEORY: Ergative, word order, and predicates

From:Christopher Bates <chris.maths_student@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 26, 2006, 21:00
> Your language could be ergative as regards case marking: you could > mark intransitive subjects with the same case as transitive objects. > (Not uncommon.) > Your language could be ergative as regards agreement: the verb could > use the transitive object agreement markers for intransitive subjects. > (Less common.) > Your language could be ergative as regards word order: intransitive > subjects could be put in the same position in the sentence as > transitive objects. (This last one rarely shows up, since it only > makes a difference in word-medial languages. You get SVO in > transitives and VS in intransitives, or OVS in transitives and SV in > intransitives.) >
Your language could also be ergative wrt pivots (this is often called "syntactic ergativity", although it seems to me that ergative word order is also syntactic, but not the same thing). For example, English has subject pivots and allows zero anaphora if two conjoined clauses share a subject: Fred went to the bank and 0 (= Fred) took out ten pounds There are some languages where it is absolutive arguments, not subjects, that have this property. However, all such languages that I'm aware of having ergative case marking or ergative verb agreement or both, and it is quite rare... that is, most languages with ergative morphology are not syntactically ergative.