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Tokana: active? (was Re: Active case-marking natlangs)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg.rhiemeier@...>
Date:Monday, February 5, 2001, 23:14
J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...> writes:

> My characterization of Tokana as active is based on the fact that the > case-marking of the subject (insofar as it is possible to characterise a notion > "subject" for this language) correlates with things like degree of > agentivity/animacy and degree of involvement:
I have the impression from the current and earlier discussions that Marcus Smith's definition of an active language contains the criterium "Does not mark nouns for case" ;-) At least, he insisted on the non-existence of case-marking active natlangs in a private-mail discussion and refuted my Georgian counterexample. But earlier, he *did* say that Nur-ellen was active even though it marks nouns for case! In fact, the case marking in Tokana is quite similar to that in Nur-ellen, as the following comparison shows:
> Absolutive subjects (undergoers): > > Ne Tsion itskane > the-Abs John-Abs arrived > "John arrived" > > Ne Tsion tioke > the-Abs John-Abs died > "John died"
Nur-ellen uses the objective case here, which corresponds to the absolutive of Tokana: Jan`n natelent. John-OBJ arrive-PAST Jan`n firent. John-OBJ die-PAST The first example is "fluid", it could also be formed with the agentive to express that John's arrival is a volitional action; but the second one can hardly be formed so (unless one wants to say that John committed suicide).
> Nominative subjects (volitional agents): > > Na Tsion hostane > the-Nom John-Nom danced > "John danced" > > Na Tsion tsitspit kopo > the-Nom John-Nom smashed-the pot-Abs > "John smashed the pot"
Nur-ellen uses the agentive here, which corresponds to the Tokana nominative: Jan limpent. John-AGT dance-PAST Jan dringent i drom. John-AGT smash-PAST the pot-OBJ Only animate agents can be volitional, hence only animate nouns have an agentive case. Is this the same in Tokana (it seems so; how can inanimate objects have volition)?
> Ablative subjects (non-volitional animate agents): > > Inaul Tsionu tsitspit kopo > the-Abl John-Abl smashed-the pot-Abs > "John accidentally smashed the pot"
Nur-ellen uses the dative for agents acting accidentally, as in the example above: Na Jan dringent i drom. DAT John smash-PAST the pot-OBJ The dative agent must be animate; inanimate nouns cannot be used with the dative preposition which governs the agentive form of the noun. To express that someone acts under external force, one would use the instrumental.
> Instrumental subjects (inanimate agents): > > Itan suhoua tsitspit kopo > the-Inst wind-Inst smashed-the pot-Abs > "The wind smashed the pot" (by blowing it off the table)
Same in Nur-ellen: Ni i sul dringent i drom. INST the wind smash-PAST the pot-OBJ
> Dative subjects (experiencers): > > Ine' Tsione hilin ikei > the-Dat John-Dat saw-the dog-Abs > "John saw the dog" > > Ine' Tsione kesta > the-Dat John-Dat happy > "John is happy"
Same again in Nur-ellen: Na Jan tirent i hu. DAT John see-PAST the dog-OBJ Na Jan gelent. DAT John be-happy-PAST Use of the agentive instead of the dative implies deliberate observation: Jan tirent i hu. John-AGT see-PAST the dog-OBJ "John watched the dog."
> Consider also the following triplet of sentences, each translated "John cut his > finger": > > Na Tsion hane silh > the-Nom John-Nom cut finger > > Inaul Tsionu hane silh > the-Abl John-Abl cut finger > > Ine' Tsione hane silh > the-Dat John-Dat cut finger > > The choice of which sentence to use depends on the degree of volitional > involvement exhibited by John: The first sentence would be used if John cut his > finger deliberately (e.g., in preparation for a blood-sibling ritual). The > second sentence would be used if John performed an action which caused his > finger > to get cut, but did so without intent (e.g., he was cutting food and the knife > slipped). The third sentence would be used if someone or something else cut > John's finger (e.g., he was running along and accidentally grazed his hand > against something sharp).
In Nur-ellen, the first situation would be expressed by agentive, the second by dative, the third also by dative if it is an accident; if someone else cuts John's finger, it would be: Ristent lebed e Jan`n. cut-PAST finger-OBJ PART John "[Someone] cut John's finger." An example of the impersonal construction Nur-ellen uses instead of a passive; more on this see below.
> I acknowledge that languages which are usually called "active" don't really work > like this, but I don't know what else to call the Tokana case-marking pattern.
Well, up to a few minor differences, it works the same way as Nur-ellen. So either both languages are active, or both are not. And the last time I checked, there was a consensus that Nur-ellen was active... In a second post, Matt addresses the question of passive and antipassive:
> Tokana does not have passives or antipassives, in the sense that you mean.
Nor does Nur-ellen.
> Viz., > there are no constructions which serve to promote or demote arguments, changing > their case in the process. Perhaps the closest thing to a relation-changing > operation in Tokana is the reflexive, formed by adding the prefix "uma(k)-" to a > transitive verb. The subjects of reflexive verbs are always in the absolutive > case, regardless of the case used for the corresponding transitive subject: > > Ma kahtin > I-Nom hit-Pst-him(Abs) > "I hit him" > > Me umakahte > I-Abs Refl-hit-Pst > "I hit myself"
Nur-ellen uses a reflexive pronoun, which does not change case marking.
> Otherwise, passive/antipassive-type meanings are expressed by simply leaving out > arguments, as you guessed.
Nur-ellen does the same.
> To express "John was killed", simply omit all mention > of the agent. There are actually two possible constructions here: If the focus > is on the event ("John got killed"), the regular past tense form of the verb is > used; if the focus is on the resultant state ("John has been killed, John is > dead"), the present tense stative form is used: > > Ne Tsion kaihe > the-Abs John-Abs kill-Pst > "John was killed"
Nur-ellen: Jan`n dagnent. John-OBJ kill-PAST
> Ne Tsion kaieha > the-Abs John-Abs kill-Stat > "John is (in a state of having been) killed"
Jan`n dag`n. John-OBJ kill-PRES
> Eliminating the patient requires the addition of the prefix "u(k)-" to the verb > stem. I call this prefix an antipassive marker, but since the addition of this > prefix does not cause any change in case-marking/grammatical relations, the term > is not entirely appropriate. Instead, adding "u(k)-" indicates that the > participant which *would be* expressed with absolutive case has an > unknown/indeterminate referent: > > Na Tsion kaihin Taniel > the-Nom John-Nom kill-Pst-the(Abs) Daniel-Abs > "John killed Daniel" > > Na Tsion ukaihe > the-Nom John-Nom Antipass-kill-Pst > "John killed someone"
In Nur-ellen, the patient is simply omitted, without an antipassive marker or anything like that: Jan dagnent. John-AGT kill-PAST Notice the difference in case to the "John was killed" example. To recall: Jan`n dagnent. John-OBJ kill-PAST
> Notice that the agent is still marked with nominative case in the second > sentence. Eliminating this agent, we get: > > Ukaihe > Antipass-kill-Pst > "Someone was killed"
In Nur-ellen, this is: Dagnent. kill-PAST That's all! So is Tokana active or not? I'd say it is. Jörg.