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Re: What's an active language?

From:daniel andreasson <danielandreasson@...>
Date:Wednesday, September 11, 2002, 11:15
Tim May wrote:

> | 3. Active System This system is essentially organised with > | the agent of action versus the patient, regardless of the > | transitivity of the verb. That is, the agent of an > | intransitive verb is treated like the agent of a transative > | verb, and the patient of an intransative verb is treated > | like the patient in a transative verb. Let's see some > | examples to help sort it out: > | > | The window broke (intransative) > | ACC > | > | The child cried (intransative) > | NOM > | > | The child broke the window (transative) > | NOM ACC
Hm. This isn't the clearest of explanations. This below is the explanation I go by. Further down I explain some of the reasons that some arguments get A-marking and some P-marking. An active language is a language which organizes its core grammar so that the argument of some one-place predicates is marked like the A of a two-place predicate, while the argument of the other one-place predicates is marked like the P of a two-place predicate. If the sole argument of a one-place (intransitive) predicate (verb) is marked as A or P depends on the semantics (of either the verb or the noun phrase). My own investigations show that there are three reasons to mark A's and P's differently. i) event vs. state ii) control iii) performance, effect and instigation "Event vs. state" means that if the verb is an event (like 'run', 'dance', 'chat', 'kill'), then the argument is marked like A. If it's a state ('be hungry', 'be tired'), then it's marked like P. "Control" means that if the argument of the verb is in control of the event (or state), then it's marked as A. If it is not in control, then it is marked as P. 'Go' and 'be careful' are controlled predicates. 'Die' and 'fall' are not. Then there's "performance, effect and instigation". Some predicates are in some way performed or instigated by the actor. However, they need not be controlled. These are verbs like 'sneeze' and 'vomit'. In languages like Lakhota and Georgian, it's enough if the actor in some way performs the action (or state), (s)he doesn't need to be in control. Thus the argument of predicates like 'sneeze' and 'hiccup' are marked as A. Languages of group ii) ("control") mark 'sneeze' and 'hiccup' predicates as P. Hope that was of help. And as always, a little self-plug: ||| daniel -- "You can't post that on the Internet, you don't even know if it's true!" - Lisa Simpson to Homer.