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Verb agreement - which is most nifty?

From:Amanda Babcock Furrow <langs@...>
Date:Saturday, April 5, 2008, 4:51
I'm whipping Mirexu into shape for its April 12th relay debut.  It's
turning out not to look very much like mërèchi after all (influences
include Abkhaz, Cree and Mohawk).  But I'm wondering which way to go
on some of the head-marking verb agreement.  Here are two candidates
for the sentence "For that (because) we miss you, we will search for
you in the mountains":

  Method 1: de  -na      af-      inno -p   -se, de  -a   tekwajol  -du
            2sg -ACC.DEP 1pl.ERG- miss -IMP -DEP 2sg -ACC mountains -OBL

            af-      en-  kwar- en-  v-   ku-  nore   -p.
            1pl.ERG- 3sg- in-   3sg- BEN- FUT- search -IMP

            dena afinnopse, dea tekwajoldu afenkwarenvkunorep.

  Method 2: de-      af-      inno -p   -se, tekwajol  -du
            2sg.ABS- 1pl.ERG- miss -IMP -DEP mountains -OBL

            v-   de-      af-      kwar- ku-  nore   -p.
            BEN- 2sg.ABS- 1pl.ERG- in-   FUT- search -IMP

            deafinnopse, tekwajoldu vdeafkwarkunorep.


		2sg	"you", standalone
		2sg.ABS	"you", absolutive agreement marker
		1pl.ERG	"we", ergative agreement marker
		3sg	"it" agreement marker
		ACC	accusative
		ACC.DEP	accusative, and in a dependent clause
		IMP	imperfective
		DEP	verb is subordinate (in this case, adverbially)
		OBL	oblique case marker
		BEN	benefactive agreement marker
		FUT	future tense

Apologies in advance for any inconsistent or inaccurate terminology I'm
about to use below.  I wish I could spend more time crafting this email...
but to return to the question:

In both cases, nouns and any standalone pronouns have NOM/ACC marking,
while marking on verbs is ERG/ABS (in method 1, by virtue of absolutive
arguments not being marked on the verb; in method 2, by having both
ergative and absolutive marking on the verb for 1st and 2nd persons (3rd
person absolutive marking is null).  Also, in both cases adverbial
purpose and reason clauses are marked by giving the adverbial clause
verb and noun arguments dependent marking, while including a benefactive
marker on the main verb to distinguish their role from the other roles
available to adverbial clauses.  Finally, both methods code all oblique
case roles by using a single morphological oblique case on the noun, but
marking all roles participated in by any oblique participant on the verb
(with some ambiguity as to which role goes with which noun).  This strategy
entirely replaces adpositions, which is a big change from mërèchi.

The differences include: method 1 staunchly refuses to code any absolutive
argument on the verb, leading to more use of standalone pronouns in the
accusative, while also highlighting the ergative bias in the verb marking;
my favorite side effect of this approach comes with intransitive clauses,
where the intransitivity shows up as a lack of case marking on the noun
combined with a lack of agreement marking on the verb.  I like the simplicity
of that.  However, method 2 gives nice complex agreement on transitive
verbs, which I could allow to fuse so as to have a somewhat opaque transitive
agreement system a la Mohawk.  Also, in method 1 the benefactive marker
for the adverbial clause shows up in the same part of the verb complex as
the markers for nouns in oblique case; in method 2 some greater clarity is
achieved by having adverbial-clause role markers show up at the beginning
of the verb complex, with oblique noun role markers clustering further on.
(The adverbial-clause marker slot fits only one morpheme, so multiple
adverbial clauses become vaguer; which one to mark would be chosen by a
hierarchy of roles, such that purpose clauses would be more markable than
circumstantial clauses, etc.)  Finally, in method 1 the oblique noun role
markers are coupled with pronouns, while in method 2 they are not, making
the verb word shorter but introducing some ambiguity.

I'm leaning toward #2.  My goals are: that it be pronouncable, that it
be un-English, that translating into the language require some thought
about how to work within the structures provided, and that it mix up
different typologies without being senseless about it (hence the mixed
nominative/ergative system).  What do you think - which one is more nifty?