Tagalog - response to takatunu (was Re: Help: Ergative VOS
|Date:||Tuesday, December 23, 2003, 20:51|
JR <fuscian@OPTONLINE.NET <mailto:fuscian@...>> wrote:
Sorry for the delay, again.
>>>>I am honoured of being specifically addressed. However I believe that my
posts along the "Triggeriness" thread responded long ago to all your
questions and arguments. It is nevertheless a pleasure for me to confirm
You're right, that's not a clear example at all. A better example of an
agent would be "Nagtuturo ako" = 'I teach.'
>> Na-laglag ang libro.
>> Intr-fell Abs book
>> The book fell.
> Same as above but as you are an active language speaker you would expectit
> to be non-volitional.It is non-volitional no matter what language you speak, and what else would
anyone expect? The point is, it is not an agent in any sense, and it is
clearly a patient.
>>>>The point is, it is not a "patient" in any sense. It is clearly a "sujet"
(in French) or an "experiencer" (in English).
The definition of particular thematic/semantic roles is universal, not
language-specific, or [language-type]-specific. Volition is considered to be
a contributing factor to agent-hood (see
ticRole.htm). That said, particular languages may group these roles slightly
differently (e.g., conflating or separating things like "theme" and
"experiencer"). Palmer calls the latter, in contrast, "grammatical roles."
That role system you apparently believe is *the* role system is only one
among other proposed options. "Experiencer" is not a "slightly different"
role and "theme" is a completely different thing coupled with "rheme" that
has nothing to do with a role, except if you talk about the semantic "topic"
(of the news for instance), in which case your claim that it's a
"conflation" of an agent or patient role is only one more evidence that it's
time for you to vary your readings. Volition is or is not a contributing
factor to agenthood depending on what your definition of the role "agent" is
(read below). Languages don't group universal roles "slightly differently",
only linguists call them and group them differently. Palmer is not God, SIL
is not the World Academy, verbal voices are not the only basis for
Certain native american languages tag as "patient" either the object of a
verb or the subject of a verb whose subject is supposed to be deprived of
will and tag as "agent" the subject of a verb whose subject is supposed to
act on purpose (like in certain native american languages). The subjects of
the same verb may swap roles according to their own semantic definition:
"The man bows."
"The bough bows."
"The caterpillar bows."
Other languages tag the subject of a verb whose subject is supposed to
change the state of the object an "agent" and this object a "patient." Then
you might get an "agent" deprived of will: "The nightmare frightened the
Now there are also verbs of whom both subject and object are deprived of
will, don't change their state and equally "experience" their relation: "The
pot contains water."
In such case, which one is the "agent", the "patient", the "experiencer",
the "focus" or the whatever and according to what creteria?
Really, the water is the content of the pot and the pot is the container of
the water. Neither is experiencing more or willing more or causing more.
A trigger system deals with all arguments in the same way and therefore is
not underlied by some ur-universal verb-agent-patient system, but is a
completely different system as Christophe tried to explain to you-to no
To get this much, you need to step out of your verbal box and visualize each
of your English verbs as a little play played by a group of actors, some of
them endowed with will and some not, some changing in nature or state and
some not-but without thinking that one is more important than another.
Whether these roles really are *the universal* semantic roles is besides the
point and anyway still depends on whether there are universal semantic roles
at all. The fact that we agree to understand what other people call "agent"
or "patient" or "experiencer" in their posts on this list does not mean that
everybody agrees on how they are used.
If you call it an actor, it seems like you're losing any
connection to semantic roles, and thus to the role-marking-on-the-verb
theory that I've been arguing against.
Forget about "actor". I tried to translate the French concept of "actant"
collectively referring to "agent" and "sujet". The whole point of this
thread and the only thing I was arguing against is the claim that the
underlying structure of a trigger language is a verb-agent-patient system.
That's a nonsense. I have no idea why you accuse me of ignoring "semantic
roles". Ignoring semantic roles first implies that people agree on what and
how many these roles are and how they work, which is not the case yet: you
call a "patient" what I call an "experiencer" in the first place regardless
what the bibliography that you generously offer in this post may summon.
The role in trigger languages is not "marked on the verb" because their
predicate is not a verb. "Nagtuturo" is not a verb. No more than its Hebrew
counterpart "melamed" is. No more than the English noun "the teacher" is.
All of them are what is called in French a "substantif" because they
"substantiate" (impersonate) the predicate of the clause. That is what a
trigger system is all about: Each argument may "impersonate" the predicate
without needing a verb. There is as well a substantive meaning "the
action/fact/process of teaching", but no verb "to teach" as such.
Certain linguists conveniently define a set of verb-agent-patient roles by
reference to verbal voices. Good for them. Now I gather from this thread
that some of them label each trigger argument with these roles. This is
presumably of not harm--if any use--since obviously the number and identity
of arguments in a clause usually keeps being the same whatever the language
the clause is translated in: The eating cat keeps being a cat and the eaten
mouse a mouse. However, claiming that ergo a trigger predicate is truely a
verb and that a trigger language is truely ERGATIVE (and *that* was the
claim that triggered Chistophe's post, if I may this poor pun) is as much a
nonsense as claiming that an ergative language is truely a trigger language.
Verbal voices make up one of several possible systems expressing one
predicate and one or more arguments, which is itself a way to express one or
several pairs of entity+behaviour. Ergative (erg-abs) and active (nom-acc)
languages express the predicate as a verb ("to teach") or a compound
verb+substantive ("to be a teacher").
However, other languages work differently in whole or in part: They may
express all or certain predicate-argument pairs as either:
(i) the equation of a substantive (the teacher) and another substantive (me)
(ii) or the attribution of a substantive (teaching, teacher) to another
In this system, the predicate substantive is possibly linked with the
argument substantives by juxtaposition, trigger tag, copula, you name it.
This system subsists in languages based on a verbal voices: Hebrew present
tense, French epithete adjectives, Japanese adjectival nouns, Hawaiian
nominal clauses, etc., subsist and are solid parts of these languages.