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Re: Ergative?

From:Vasiliy Chernov <bc_@...>
Date:Friday, September 28, 2001, 16:40
On Fri, 28 Sep 2001 09:30:15 -0000, Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>
>If you're just presented with one of these constructions, and not >allowed to check what other constructions the language has, how do you >distinguish between passive and ergative? (And you don't know that the >verb is marked for passive if you don't have the unmarked form).
As I argued in one of my previous posts, you still have to tell which one is ergative and which one is passive. I think what is *morphologically* marked is an unrelated question (also hard to answer, sometimes).
>Well, in some cases, you can tell which of the noun phrases it is that >behaves as a grammatical subject -- if it's the patient, you might be >looking at a passive, if it's the agent, it might be ergative.
Yes, I though, too, that the distinction may be all in subjecthood (-ness? -ship? -likeness?).
> But >this doesn't always work, there are many ergative languages where the >subject-like behaviour is distributed between the noun phrases. And >it can change fairly easily.
Actually, this way one will have to postulate some non-nominative constructions e. g. in English: _It seems to me_ - the _me_ looks more subject-like, from certain perspectives, than _it_.
>In fact, that is what happened in some languages that are now split >ergative: They used to have an active past/perfect (using a synthetic >form of the verb) and a passive one (using a participle). But when the >active construction fell out of use, the remaining one didn't have >anything to be the passive of, so we call it an ergative construction >instead. (And the original instrumental case that's used for the agent >gets to double as the ergative case). I suppose that the coordination >patterns changed as well, at least in some of the languages, to make >the agent the syntactic subject too.
Nearly all Iranian langs seem to have passed through such split-ergative stage like you describe, partly becoming nominative again at a later point. Basilius


The Gray Wizard <dbell@...>