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Re: R: Re: erg/abs; verbs.

From:Tim Smith <timsmith@...>
Date:Friday, March 17, 2000, 1:45
At 07:13 PM 3/16/2000 +0100, Mangiat wrote:
>Tim wrote: >> Not too long ago, I read Winfred P. Lehmann's recent book on Indo-European >> (I can't find it right now, so I can't give you a citation), and he argued >> that at some stage in its history, Proto-IE was an active language and >> _did_ mark case on nouns (-s for agent and -m for patient). > >*Every* Indoeuropean language uses those endings: >Latin has NOM lupus ACC lupum >Greek has NOM kalòs ACC kalòn < *kalòm >Sanskrit the same and so on. > >Luca Mangiat
Yes, but his point was that they were used differently then. During the active stage of the protolanguage, the -m ending would have been used not only for direct objects, but also for subjects of intransitive stative verbs, and the -s ending would have been restricted to subjects of transitive verbs and of dynamic (non-stative) intransitives. It was only with the transition from an active language to a nominative-accusative one that they took on their current functions. For what it's worth, I had rather mixed reactions to the book, although it certainly was interesting. I found Lehmann much more convincing in casting doubt on other people's theories than in promoting his own. Thus the overall impression that the book left me with was of the fragility and tentativeness of _all_ attempts at reconstructing protolanguages. And if they're fragile and tentative for Indo-European, which has written records going back thousands of years to serve as a reality check, how much _more_ fragile and tentative must they be for most other language families! - Tim