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split ergativity

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 24, 2004, 6:10
Doug Dee wrote:
> Dixon says (p. 14) "However -- and this is a most interesting and > significant fact -- no language has thus far been reported that is > fully ergative, at both morphological and syntactic levels." So, > although it may not be a question of "splits," Dixon supports > Andreas's point that no language is entirely ergative. Dixon lists > Basque among "languages with some ergative morphology but an > entirely accusative syntax." (p. 175)
For some reason, I never got this email in original form. I think a lot of this discussion is wrong-headed, because it assumes that languages conform to some kind of platonic 'type', rather than being subject to a number of independent competing forces. All languages tend to show both accusative and ergative characteristics, and differ simply to what extent they grammaticalize that fact. Indeed, what one really means by this is that all languages are sensitive to thematic roles and how they manifest themselves syntactically. This is why some languages will grammaticalize *both* kinds of intransitive -- those characterized by their usually agent-like arguments, and those characterized by their usually patient-like arguments. To argue otherwise is simply missing the generalization. ========================================================================= Thomas Wier "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally, Dept. of Linguistics because our secret police don't get it right University of Chicago half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of 1010 E. 59th Street Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter. Chicago, IL 60637


Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>