THEORY: What is an active language (was Re: Active case-marking natlangs)
|From:||Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg.rhiemeier@...>|
|Date:||Monday, February 5, 2001, 23:33|
daniel andreasson <daniel.andreasson@...> writes:
> [quote from BA thesis snipped]
> As you can see, I have a very vague definition of "active". I think the
> main thing that distinguishes active langs from ergative and accusative
> ones is that there is some kind of semantic reason for marking the S
> argument as either A or P. The most common ones being Control vs. non-
> control and event vs. state.
I'd say, "event vs. state" is a bit weak. The verb "to fall", for
example, clearly refers to an event, but is its subject an A?
> I don't know if my view on things really matters in this discussion
> (Marcus doesn't quite agree, having a narrower definition of "active"
Which seems to include the absence of a case system ;-)
> and Matt having a very broad definition (as it seems) and Jörg basing
> his definition more on animate vs. inanimate)
Well, I'd rather say it is based on volition, which of course implies
animacy. But a non-volitional animate is still a P (or an INST, or
whatever) and not an A, at least as far I understand it. An inanimate
entity, in my personal model, can NEVER be an A, though. But I am not
so strict so say that anything that doesn't strictly adhere to this
model is not active. Hence, I call languages where this holds "strictly
active", while "active" alone leaves some leeway for things that are not
allowed in a "strictly active" language, e.g. treating an inanimate
subject of an active verb (as in the sentence "The stone breaks the
window") as an A. I am not sure by myself where to draw the line
between "active" and a more general "split-S".
But one thing is certain: it doesn't matter whether the language uses
cases or verb agreement marking to distinguish A and P. If one says
"No, this is not active; the examples you gave are simply unergative
verbs/irregular forms/whatever" merely because the language marks nouns
for case, I cannot take that seriously.
> but at least you know what
> I think about active langs (at least for the moment, my view changes all
> the time).
So does mine.
Heck, I don't really care whether a particular language is active or not
under theory XY. Every language has a somewhat different system. And I
have seen languages being labeled "active" where I asked, "Why?", and
others labeled "not active", where I asked, "Why not?" And when I
designed Nur-ellen, I didn't knew that there is a linguistic term for
such a system. It just sprang to my mind ans I liked it; hence I just
did it because it felt right to me.