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Re: THEORY: a division of non-Personal tenses?

From:David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Date:Friday, July 1, 2005, 4:18
Rodlox wrote:
I suspect there are, but I think I should perhaps ask: are there
extant languages which divide non-Personal tenses into "animal" and
"other" ?

The answer, if I've understood your website correctly, is yes.
This is called an animacy distinction (or agent-worthiness, or
topic-worthiness, according to Payne).  Often languages will
have different systems based on different animacy elements.
English does this in its case marking:

She sees him.
He sees her.

The man sees the dog.
The dog sees the man.

Pronouns, which are higher up on the animacy hierarchy, have
an accusative case marking pattern (you mark the objects of
transitive verbs specially), whereas nouns are simply marked
with a neutral system.

In the case you describe, the difference lies simply in the nouns.
Nouns that are animate (this would include animals *and*
humans, presumably) take one kind of verbal endings, and all
other nouns take a different one.  Since this only refers to nouns,
it obviously only will make a difference in the third person--which
is exactly what you've shown on your website.

So, yes, this is natural, and yes, it exists in natural languages.  The
phenomenon in general can be referred to as an animacy distinction.

"sunly eleSkarez ygralleryf ydZZixelje je ox2mejze."
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-Jim Morrison