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QUESTION-New project

From:Jim Grossmann <jimg@...>
Date:Saturday, February 13, 1999, 4:40
JimG -- Say, for those like me who came in late, could you illustrate your
statements with nonce-examples with English lexemes?   I want to know more
about proximate vs. obviative, applicatives, direct/inverse marking, the
promotion of NP's to direct object status, etc.?    This help will make and
other listers very grateful.   :-)


>I'm already thinking about a major change in the new project that I've >posted about a few times in the last few weeks. To recap very briefly,
>conlang (still unnamed) uses proximate/obviative marking on third-person >noun phrases and direct/inverse marking on verbs to distinguish the agents >and patients of transitive verbs (as in the Algonquian languages), and also >to mark topic and focus. (The topic is proximate; the focus is obviative >and occupies the immediate pre-verbal position which would otherwise be >occupied by the topic.) An extensive system of applicatives allows NPs >other than subjects and direct objects to be topicalized by promoting other >NPs to direct-object status.
>This works fine for intransitive and monotransitive verbs, but I'm finding >that it get really complicated and messy when dealing with ditransitive >verbs. I've figured out ways to make it work, but they strike me as rather >ugly and not really in keeping with my original vision of this grammar. >(Among other things, they require a fixed word order for certain clause >types, something that I wanted to avoid.) Therefore I'm thinking about >introducing a rule that there are NO ditransitive verbs: that on the >syntactic level every verb has at most two arguments (a subject and a
>object), and that with verbs that semantically require three arguments >(e.g., "give"), one of them must always be expressed as an oblique object >(the object of a preposition). All such verbs would have applicative forms >that allow the patient/theme and recipient/goal NPs to freely exchange >syntactic roles.
>To illustrate using analogous constructions in English (which conveniently >happens to allow all of the relevant construction types): under my old >system, one would way "I gave the woman the book" (recipient = primary >object, patient = secondary object). Under my new system, this >double-object construction is not allowed; instead one has a choice of >saying either "I gave the book to the woman" (patient = direct object, >recipient = oblique) or "I presented the woman with the book" (recipient = >direct object, patient = oblique) (except that the verb forms corresponding >to "gave" and "presented" would be different forms of the same lexical verb >rather than separate lexemes).
>Applicatives would be just as necessary as before, but they would work >somewhat differently. I had envisioned them as being much like Bantu >applicatives, which, when they promote an oblique object to direct object, >leave the original direct object (if any) unaffected, resulting in a clause >with two direct objects (or rather, a primary and a secondary object). >Under the new system, an applicative would demote any pre-existing direct >object to an oblique object (with the choice of preposition being lexically >determined by the verb). I don't know if there are any natlangs that have >applicatives that work this way.