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relative tense / universals / object agreement

From:Boudewijn Rempt <brt@...>
Date:Monday, March 22, 1999, 14:11
Nik Taylor wrote:

>> I think the universal is, direction first (most often past vs.
>> and distance second. > >It's only logical, I think. I mean, what could possibly be gained by >indicating distance without direction? I think this is one of those >"universals" that are just practical, the alternate just wouldn't work.
Well, since theoretically, as a thought experiment, it could be possible. I mean, if the direction of the future is not universal (the future can be viewed as either in front of you or behind you), it could be possible that neither direction is viewed as important, only the distance. As you say, it's quite logical that this construction isn't attested, but it remains an interesting thought - quite suited for a conlang :-). Of course, a nice parallel are deictics: you've got distal ('there') and proximal ('here') deictics, that don't indicate any direction, so it is conceivable to construct a tense system out of verbs + proximal and distal deictics.
>> Does anyone know of a conlang that has object agreement >> incorporated into the verb?
>Klingon does. My conlang, Watya'i'sa, has *optional* agreement with the >ergative argument, and obligatory agreement with the absolutive >argument.
I'm always a bit confused on terminology for ergativity - do you mean the following: (Terminological aside: S = intransitive subject, A = transitive subject (als called agent), O = object, in an ergative language S and O are marked the same, A is marked differently, fairly often with a case related to the instrumental.) In Watya'i'sa, the agreement of the intransitive verb with S of the transitive verb with O is morphologically the same and obligatory, while the agreement of the transitive verb with A is optional? That would be very interesting - it's most often that marking for S and O is optional, while the marking A is obligatory, since in intransitive sentences marking for the subject is redundant - in fact, third person singular subject/object is most often the default, unmarked actant. I'd very much like to see some examples... My own language was started long before I even heard of the existence of ergativity, and I can't work it in anymore - more's the pity.