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Re: Ergativity

From:Nik Taylor <yonjuuni@...>
Date:Thursday, February 26, 2004, 6:25
Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:
> > Construct Categories > > Name Groupings > > Accusative {A, S} {P} > > Clairvoyant {A, P, S} > > Ergative {A} {S, P} > > Monster Raving Loony {A, P} {S} > > Are there any MRL natlangs?
As far as I know, there are none that are *completely* MRL. However, there are languages, such as Iranian, where in certain constructions (specifically, past tense), that form is used. The origin of this is a simple Hindi-like split-ergativity, wherein past tense was ergative (agent = genetive, subject/patient = nominative) while in present tense it was accusative (agent/subject = nominative, patient = accusative), due to the origin of the past tense form in a passive construction. Later, due to sound changes, the genetive and accusative merged into a single oblique case, thus, for past tense, you had agent = oblique, subject/patient = nominative; while for present tense it was agent/subject = nominative, patient = oblique. The crucial change was when the patient of a past tense verb came to be marked as oblique, due to analogy with the present tense, leaving the system agent/patient = oblique, subject = nominative. Some related languages have gone a further step and made agents of past tense verbs nominative, by analogy with present tense, creating a normal accusative system. To clarify: Past Original Intermediate Modern (Related) Subject NOM NOM NOM NOM Agent GEN OBL OBL NOM Patient NOM NOM OBL OBL (ergative) (MRL) (accusative) Present Subject NOM NOM NOM NOM Agent NOM NOM NOM NOM Patient ACC OBL OBL OBL -- "There's no such thing as 'cool'. Everyone's just a big dork or nerd, you just have to find people who are dorky the same way you are." - overheard ICQ: 18656696 AIM Screen-Name: NikTaylor42