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Re: Ergative?

From:The Gray Wizard <dbell@...>
Date:Friday, September 28, 2001, 11:30
> From: Lars Henrik Mathiesen >
[snipped earlier posts in thread]
> > However, looking at the constructions in isolation, there's not much > to distinguish them, especially if they admit the same word order: > > Intransitive: Mary:ABS/NOM sleep:INTR > > Active: John:NOM loves:ACT Mary:ACC > > Passive: (By John):INS (is loved):PAS Mary:ABS/NOM > > Ergative: John:ERG loves:ACT Mary:ABS > > (These construction names and role markings are a bit dodgy, I know, > but I hope the meaning comes across). > > 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).
It seems to me that these examples blend three possibly orthogonal concepts 1) valency (intransitive/transitive), 2) voice (active/passive) and 3) case (accusative/ergative). Let's tease them out: First for an ergative language (we will ignore split ergative for the moment) (1) Active Intransitive: Mary-ABS sleep-ACT (2) Active Transitive: John-ERG love-ACT Mary-ABS (3) Passive: Mary-ABS love-PASS (John-INS?) Then for an accusative language (4) Active Intransitive: Mary-NOM sleep-ACT (5) Active Transitive: John-NOM love-ACT Mary-ACC (6) Passive: Mary-NOM love-PASS (John-INS?) When one asks how to distinguish between a passive and an ergative form, what two sentences are you attempting to distinguish? Sentence (3) is both Passive AND Ergative, so the question of distinguishing between them is moot. If by "ergative" form, one means the limiting case where an ergative case marking is actually present (i.e. sentence (2)) then I would have to, by analogy, assume that an "accusative" form would be represented by sentence (5). If we assume the hypothetical you suggested in the last paragraph quoted above, then it would seem to me that (2) and (3) are no more indistinguishable than are (5) and (6) (assuming "you don't know that the verb is marked for passive if you don't have the unmarked form"). I would then be led to question, again by analogy, how one distinguishes between a passive and an accusative form? I don't believe that split-ergativity affects these examples since the split is generally along some semantic divide, although some splits could certainly confuse these matters. AFMCL, amman iar is, in fact, split ergative where the split is made along an animacy continuum. Stay curious, David David E. Bell The Gray Wizard elivas en ishron ordelmar cotronian Wisdom begins in wonder.


Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>