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Phaleran Case Update (1): Ergativity

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Monday, August 6, 2001, 5:48
Okay, so I've been working a little on Phaleran case.  Here're
some brief notes about the cases.

Phaleran codes grammatical relations with seven different cases,
some of which partially overlap in semantics.  They are:  ergative,
absolutive, dative, benefactive, instrumental, durative, and abessive.
I haven't altered any of the information for the absolutive, benefactive,
durative or abessive, so I will not include those here (for those who
are interested, they can be seen at the following out-of-date website:

This has changed a little, but it is by and large exactly what you'd
expect from an ergative case:  it marks the agent of transitive verbs
explicitly in one way, and leaves the patient of transitive verbs and
the subject of intransitive verbs in the absolutive case (Phaleran is
incidentally not a Split-S or Fluid-S system.) The only real change
is in the pronouns, and the phonological makeup of the ergative
ending itself.  The Phaleran pronominal system is a fairly straight-forward
example of split ergativity:  verbal agreement, and the first and second
person pronouns all operate according to a nominative/accusative system,
while all common and proper nouns lower on the topicality hierarchy
operate according to an ergative/absolutive marking system.  The only
unusual thing about Phaleran is that these two systems actually intersect
in the third person pronouns, where S, A, and O are all distinctly marked.

            First                          Second                    Third
        Sg     Pl-In     Pl-Ex     Sg        Pl           Sg.       Pl
S     hwei   hwana   hwaya   tyei      tyana       eo        eona
A    hwei    hwana   hwaya  tyei       tyana       eollu    eondru
O    aphes  aphenas apheis  tyas      tyanas      eoi      eoni
(I'm omitting the obviative third person pronouns because I haven't
figured out the diachronic sound changes for them yet.)

What this shows is rather messy for several reasons.  First, languages
can be messy diachronically.  The fact that the distinct objective form in
the first person has a suppletive root is not that strange, and conforms
to the linguistic norm that direct or inherent or more topical actions are
more likely to be lexicalized than less direct or inherent or topical actions.  Secondly,
it is partially an artefact of standardization.  In the third person forms, we see a
different objective suffix (-i) than we do in the first and second person
forms (-s). Different Phaleran dialects have different suffixes in this respect;
some use -i consistently in all objective forms (aphei, tyai, eoi), while others
use -s consistently (aphes, tyas, eos).  The Academy which established
Standard Phaleran had good reason for this:  had the -s been used for
_eo-_, the result (eos) would have been homophonous with the benefactive
_eos_.   One last observation brings me to my next point about the ergative
case:  _eondru_.  Here is an example of what happens to the UR /-llu/ in
one phonological environment (namely, before nasal consonants).  These
allomorphs occur in all ergative uses, not just pronouns:

                  -->  [dru] / [+nasal C] _
    /-llu/       --> [u] / [ -voice] [+ fricative] _
                  --> [lu] / [+liquid] _

(I hope my using only semiformal notation isn't annoying anyone.)

This is getting a little long, so I'll break it up.

Thomas Wier | AIM: trwier

"Aspidi men Saiôn tis agalletai, hên para thamnôi
  entos amômêton kallipon ouk ethelôn;
autos d' exephugon thanatou telos: aspis ekeinê
  erretô; exautês ktêsomai ou kakiô" - Arkhilokhos


Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>