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Re: Active case-marking natlangs (was Re: What is needed inanconlang classificatory system?)

From:Marcus Smith <smithma@...>
Date:Monday, February 5, 2001, 1:15
Matt Pearson wrote:

> > While this system makes distinctions not commonly found in accusative and > > ergative languages, I don't see why you call it active. > >My characterization of Tokana as active is based on the fact that the >case-marking of the subject (insofar as it is possible to characterise a >notion >"subject" for this language) correlates with things like degree of >agentivity/animacy and degree of involvement:
Under this characterization, Old English and Russian would be "active" (to name but a few).
>Consider also the following triplet of sentences, each translated "John >cut his >finger": > > Na Tsion hane silh > the-Nom John-Nom cut finger > > Inaul Tsionu hane silh > the-Abl John-Abl cut finger > > Ine' Tsione hane silh > the-Dat John-Dat cut finger
Triplets like this also occur in active languages. For instance, in Chickasaw: Chokma-li. good-1sI. 'I behave good.' Sa-chokma. 1sII-good 'I am good.' Am-chokma. 1sIII-good 'I feel good.' There are very few words in Chickasaw and Choctaw that can have this three way contrast. I can't even think of any others off the top of my head. Most active langs I'm familiar with don't have a three way case distinction though.
>I acknowledge that languages which are usually called "active" don't >really work >like this, but I don't know what else to call the Tokana case-marking pattern. >Do you have any suggestions?
You could call it by Dixon's term "Fluid-S". I think that active languages are a subset of Fluid-S langs, though I think people tend to use the terms as equivalents. Thus, Tokana, Georgian, Chickasaw, and Mohawk would all be Fluid-S, but only Chickasaw and Mohawk are active (the latter moreso than the former). As with any artificial division, I'm not exactly sure where the line separating active from the rest should be drawn. Marcus Smith "Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatsoever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." -- Thomas Huxley