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THEORY: Active case-marking natlangs

From:daniel andreasson <daniel.andreasson@...>
Date:Monday, February 5, 2001, 13:12
Hey. I don't know if there should be a THEORY tag in the subject
but since Tokana is still mentioned, I think I'll leave it out.

Marcus wrote:
> > You could call it by Dixon's term "Fluid-S". I think that active
> > are a subset of Fluid-S langs, though I think people tend to use the
> > as equivalents. Thus, Tokana, Georgian, Chickasaw, and Mohawk would all
> > Fluid-S, but only Chickasaw and Mohawk are active (the latter moreso
> > the former). As with any artificial division, I'm not exactly sure where > > the line separating active from the rest should be drawn.
Matt wrote:
> I guess I have absolutely no idea what you mean by "active", then, and how
> differs from the kind of case-marking system found in Tokana. Please
define! Your
> claim that Old English is an active language makes no sense to me, I'm
> As for Russian, other than the presence of some 'quirky case' subjects,
and the
> fact that animacy affects the object case marking of masculine gender
nouns, I fail
> to see how the Russian case-marking system is anything like Tokana.
This is the way I define "active alignment" in my BA-thesis: "An active language is a language which organize its core grammar so that the argument of some one-place predicates is marked like the A of a two-place predicate, while the argument of the other one-place predicates is marked like the P of a two-place predicate (Blake 1994). Or put another way: Some one-place predicates get their arguments marked like A, and others like P. And sometimes some one-place predicates can get their arguments marked like either A or P. Yet another way of putting it is that one can think of an active language as pursuing a middle course compared to ergative and accusative languages; it marks some S like A and some like P." Then I talk a bit about Dixon's "split-S" and "fluid-S" and why I can't use them: "Dixon claims that there is a major difference between split-S and fluid-S languages. Split-S languages are just like ergative and accusative languages, having syntactically based marking of core constituents. The case marking or agreement marking of a predicate is always done in the same way, no matter what the semantics is in a particular instance. [ ... ] Fluid-S languages have syntactically based marking for transitive verbs, but semantically based marking for intransitive predicates, depending on what the semantics are in a particular instance of use. Hence, in a fully fluid-S language, every predicate has the possibility of taking either A or P as its marking. [ ... ] There are two problems with this. First, the division of the intransitive core role (S) being marked as either A or P has a semantic basis which is similar regardless if it is variable ('fluid') or not. Second, there are languages which employ semantic marking for transitive clauses as well." As you can see, I have a very vague definition of "active". I think the main thing that distinguishes active langs from ergative and accusative ones is that there is some kind of semantic reason for marking the S argument as either A or P. The most common ones being Control vs. non- control and event vs. state. I don't know if my view on things really matters in this discussion (Marcus doesn't quite agree, having a narrower definition of "active" and Matt having a very broad definition (as it seems) and Jörg basing his definition more on animate vs. inanimate) but at least you know what I think about active langs (at least for the moment, my view changes all the time). Comments? daniel