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Re: Ergative?

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Tuesday, January 29, 2002, 19:47
En réponse à The RipperDoc <ripperdoc@...>:

> Hello! > A short, simple question: what's ergative/absolutive? > I've seen it mentioned several times, and I've looked the words up in > a > lingustic glossary, but I seem to fail to understand it :-) Please > give > examples, I'm still very much of an amateur. > > /Martin >
Examples are gonna be difficult, since I don't know any ergative language to the point of being able to give examples. But the use of ergative and absolutive is easy to understand, even without examples. Languages like Latin (or even English in personal pronouns) mark differently the subject of a verb vs. the object of the verb, whether the verb is transitive (takes an object) or intransitive (takes no object). So English "I run" and "I see you" have the same form of "I", although the first verb is intransitive and the second is transitive. Those languages are called nominative-accusative. The nominative is case of the subject, the accusative is the case of the object. Ergative-absolutive languages cut their functions differently. In those languages, the subject of an intransitive verb takes the same form (case) as the *object* of a transitive verb. This case is called absolutive. The subject of a transitive verb is marked with a special case: the ergative. So nominative languages like English and Latin mark the subject of an intransitive verb in the same way as the subject of a transitive verb, while ergative languages (like Basque) mark the subject of an intransitive verb in the same way as the object of a transitive verb. Christophe. Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.


Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
The Gray Wizard <dbell@...>