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active vs. semantic marking languages (was: Re: Noun tense)

From:Daniel Andreasson Vpc <daniel.andreasson@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 24, 2002, 8:46
Peter Clark wrote:

> Because Enamyn is an active-case language, it > would mark both as agents in the case of a verb > like "meet," assuming that they > planned on meeting > at such-and-such a time. If they just bumped into > each other on the street corner, then they would both > be patients.
That's not really an active language. At least not in the sense usually used on this list. Some people on this list refer to this kind of language as "active", however. (Although I think both Marcus Smith and Jörg Rhiemeier are nomail, so I hope this won't turn into some kind of flame war. Otoh, the point of bringing this matter up is kind of futile if neither of them are here.) What I mean by active language is a language which can mark the sole participant of an intransitive clause as either agent or patient depending on the semantics of the verb (more common) or the semantics of the NP (more rare). The arguments of transitive clauses are marked like any other regular accusative or ergative language: always agent for the "subject" and patient for the "object": Languages which mark the participants of a clause differently regardless of it being intransitive, transitive or even ditransitive, is not in my (and I think most linguists out there) definition an active language, but something else. In short. Active languages are the third alternative in the accusative-ergative-active triad. Simplified examples: Nominative: I-nom eat. Ergative: I-abs eat. Active: I-agt eat. --- I-pat sleep. The purely semantic marking languages are of a whole other kind. Imho, we need to do one of the following things. i) Include the semantic marking languages into the "active" group. ii) Call "split intransitive" languages "active" and give a new name to the "semantic marking" kind. I'm suggesting "semantic marking", or possibly "agentive" even though "agentive" and lots of other names are used for "active". Other suggestions? I think we would benefit from a more subtle distinction. So what do people think? Does anyone but me even care? ||| daniel


Peter Clark <peter-clark@...>
H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Marcus Smith <smithma@...>
Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>