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Re: Ergativity

From:JS Bangs <jaspax@...>
Date:Tuesday, August 5, 2003, 21:44
Rob Haden sikyal:

> >One possibility is that this is simply some strange accusative system > >wherein the accusative is unmarked but the nominative is marked.
This was also my analysis.
> Ah, I see what you're getting at! My premise was to mark transitive agents > (when expressed) with the genitive postposition *n(w)a, to show that the > noun in question is the originator of the action (i.e., the grammatical > subject). That's why I made a distinction between > > My�ya n(w)a ?y�t?ya 'I'm eating (something)' > > and > > My�ya ?y�t?ya 'I'm being eaten' > > In other words, the use of the genitive in the former sentence implies > volition, and thus a direct object is implied but not expressed.
The information so far suggests that you have an accusative system that marks the nominative but leaves the accusative unmarked. That's because the subject in the transitive sentence "I am eating you" and the intransitive sentence "I am eating" are marked the same way--the definition of accusative. To have an ergative system you need: My�ya ?y�t?ya "I am eating" My�ya n[w]a thw�ya ?y�t?ya "I am eating you"
> I guess that in my mind, the difference between 'eating a horse' > and 'eating' is simply one of expressed vs. unexpressed objects. In other > words, 'eat' implicitly takes a direct object, whether expressed or not. > So I take it that many/most ergative languages make a distinction > between 'eating a horse' and 'eating'?
Hmmm. Not necessarily. It's possible for an ergative language to allow for the absolutive argument to be omitted in some cases--but the examples you gave weren't sufficient to say whether this was the case, or whether we had a strange accusative system.
> As for 'run,' while I would say that it does not necessarily require a > direct object, it is a volitive activity. Thus 'I'm running' would > be 'My�ya n(w)a [run].' However, the translation for e.g. 'I am falling' > would be 'My�ya [fall].' Would this make Pre-OurTongue an active language?
Ah! This makes much more sense, and you are correct: this describes an active system, where n[w]a is the agentive marker. -- Jesse S. Bangs Jesus asked them, "Who do you say that I am?" And they answered, "You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationship." And Jesus said, "What?"