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Re: THEORY: What is an active language?

From:Matt Pearson <pearson@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 6, 2001, 1:24
daniel andreasson wrote:

> > Hence, I call languages where this holds "strictly > > active", while "active" alone leaves some leeway for things that are not > > allowed in a "strictly active" language, e.g. treating an inanimate > > subject of an active verb (as in the sentence "The stone breaks the > > window") as an A. I am not sure by myself where to draw the line > > between "active" and a more general "split-S". > > I think you have a good point here. And as I said before, split-S > _could_ be thought of as a strictly syntactic alignment, but IME > that is not usually the case, since there is some semantics to it.
In the more recent versions of GB/Minimalist theory (which harken back to the old Generative Semantics framework), semantic roles like "agent" and "patient" are not taken to be primitives, but are definable in terms of their alignment within a highly articulated syntactic structure. E.g., "agent" (or better, "actor") may be thought of as the subject/specifier of an abstract predicate CAUSE, which combines in the syntax with a lexical predicate to form an agentive verb. If this theory is correct, then it should be possible to characterise even semantic-based case-marking systems in syntactic terms. I suspect that this is the correct way to go... Matt.