Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Ergative Construction?

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>
Date:Friday, October 12, 2001, 21:29
At 8:16 AM -0500 10/12/01, William Annis wrote:
> Now this is very odd. After years of looking, I finally found >a Sumerian grammar in English (technical German is slooooow reading >for me), and it seems Sumerian has this singular/plural verb >difference, sometimes with suppletives filling out the possible >forms. From section 265 of "The Sumerian Language" by Marie-Louise >Thomsen -- my copy arrived yesterday :) -- "to bring" has these forms >(I'm omitting the cuneiform ident subscripts): > > hamTu-form marû-form >sing. de tum, tum >pl. lah lah > >"to go:" ('G' is the g with a tilde on it), from s.258. > hamTu-form marû-form >sing. Gen du >pl. (e)re sub > >Is this a normal feature of languages with ergativity? Of course, >Sumerian is only ergative in the hamTu aspect (probably perfective), >and is nom-acc in the marû aspect (probably durative), but I gather no >language is purely ergative.
Uto-Aztecan languages also have this feature. All of the languages that I'm familiar with in the family are nominative-accusative, but they show suppletion according to an ergative pattern in a manner similar to what you show for Sumerian. In Shoshoni you have the following examples of intransitive verbs which show suppletion based on the number of the subject (<j> is the palatal glide; <y> is a high, central unrounded vowel): singular plural gloss nukki nutaa 'run' katy jykwi 'sit' pahai jokka 'fall off' yake nawoih 'cry' yppyi ykkoi 'sleep' The following transitive verbs show stem suppletion based on the number of the object: singular plural gloss pekka wasy 'kill' jaa hima 'carry' ka'a ponka'i 'break' tawi tappaiti 'throw' uttu himi 'give' To each list can be added about two dozen further forms. There are also dual forms which are derived by reduplication from either the singular stem or the plural stem. And then there's this one: singular dual plural gloss wyny tsatsakki topo'i 'stand' The dual is formed by reduplicating a synchronically non-existent stem. Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "Speech is human, silence is divine, yet also brutish and dead; therefore we must learn both arts." - Thomas Carlyle