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Chickasaw (was Re: Argument Structures)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg.rhiemeier@...>
Date:Thursday, August 24, 2000, 23:27
Marcus Smith wrote:

> [Numbers in Chickasaw] > > Chickasaw is an active language, and all number verbs take active agreement > (Class-I in the Chickasaw literature); contrary to what may be expected from > the semantics.
Indeed, contrary to what one would expect! It looks like that though being active, Ch. does not deny the agentive case to inanimate nouns. I always had the impression that it is typical of active languages to only allow animates in this role. In Dakota, for example, there is never a personal agreement marker if the corresponding NP is inanimate, and if one of two NPs in a transitive sentence is animate and the other is inanimate, the animate NP is taken as subject no matter whether it goes first or not; in my conlang Nur-ellen, inanimate nouns have no agentive case. From an active language with number verbs, one would rather expect that these number verbs behave like stative verbs ought to: treat their argument as P, not as A. (If I had decided to have numbers as verbs in Nur-ellen - I did not -, I would surely have had them take their argument in objective rather than agentive case - otherwise one couldn't count inanimate things!) BTW, I have heard more than once that Chickasaw was NOT active, but accusative, and the usage of number verbs you describe looks more like this. Does it perhaps exhibit some kind of arbitrary lexical ergativity (i.e., some intransitive verbs treat their S like an A, others like a P, but in a way not obviously related to semantics)? If this is the case, it should not be called "active", but merely "lexically split-ergative". Syld, Joerg.