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Re: Participles in ergative languages

From:Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
Date:Wednesday, October 18, 2006, 2:27
On Oct 16, 2006, at 4:44 PM, Patrick Littell wrote:

> On 10/16/06, Eldin Raigmore <eldin_raigmore@...> wrote: >> >> The important distinction is whether the participle denotes the >> agent of >> the verb or denotes the patient of the verb. While this >> reasonably could >> be labeled a distinction of voice, I don't see why the voice- >> labels applied >> to participles necessarily have to be exactly the same as the >> voice-labels >> applied to finite verbs in the same language. >> If you use "agentive participles" and "patientive participles" >> instead >> of "active participles" and "passive participles" (or "antipassive >> participles" and "absolutive(?) participles"), you'll avoid any >> confusion. >> That's only one idea, but it's the best one I've come up with so far. >> > > A good start, but I think "agentive" and "patientive" would mean > something different. For example, I believe agentive nominalization > in English (-er) requires that the verb take an argument with an agent > (or instrument) role: > > He bites the dog -> He is a biter. > He walks -> He is a walker. > He arrives -> ??He is an arriver. > > (Meanwhile, the "patientive" nominalization (-ee) (is that the word > for it?) requires a patient... we can make the noun "walkee" but it > can't mean "one who walks", only "one who is walked".)
Actually, I have run across a paper on the net about using -ee with intransitive verbs that take a patient subject, although I can't find it now. Wikipedia ( absolutive_language#Traces_of_ergativity_in_English) has: "John has retired." -> "John is a retiree." "John has escaped." -> "John is an escapee." "John is standing." -> "John is a standee." "Retiree" and "escapee" don't seem odd to me, probably because they occur fairly often. "Standee", however, seems a bit odd. In my idiolect (just like yours, from the sounds of it), the tendency to add -ee to intransitive verbs is not productive.
> > But an active participle isn't really "agentive"; it's more > "nominative", in that it treats intransitive subject like a transitive > subject whether its an agent or a patient: > > He bites the dog -> Biting the dog, he made journalistic history. > He walks -> Walking down the street, he saw an accident. > He arrives -> Arriving in the nick of time, he prevented certain > disaster. > > The passive participle, on the other hand, won't describe the subject > even if the subject is a semantic patient: > > He bites the dog -> Bitten by the man, the dog made journalistic > history. > He arrives -> *Arrived in the nick of time, he prevented certain > disaster. > > Anyway, we can look at nominalizations and participles in the same > sort of way we do verb alignment: English has nominative-accusative > alignment in its participle system but a Split- or Fluid-S system for > its argument-referencing nominalizations. As you said above, there's > no a priori reason that these different subsystems have to match the > alignment of the finite verb system.
I'm inclined to accept that they might not match, pending evidence from natlangs. Sounds reasonable to me, though.
> > ---------- > > I think your basic idea is good. We could adopt the following > terminology: > > An agentive nominalization denotes the agent-like argument. (-er) > A patientive nominalization denotes the patient-like argument. (-ee) > A nominative nominalization denotes transitive subjects and > intransitive subjects. > An accusative nominalization denotes transitive objects only. > An ergative nominalization denotes transitive subjects only. > An absolutive nominalization denotes transitive objects and > intransitive subjects. > > And similarly for participles. > > -- Pat
*nod* Thanks!