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

From:J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>
Date:Sunday, February 4, 2001, 19:58
Marcus Smith wrote:

> Matt Pearson wrote: > > >Tokana is another conlang with an active case-marking system. Tokana is > >strictly dependent-marking in this regard, inasmuch as there is no agreement > >morphology on verbs. The breakdown of case forms works more-or-less like > >this: > > > >ABSOLUTIVE: patients/themes (including subjects of non-eventive verbs) > >NOMINATIVE: volitional agents of eventive verbs (both transitive and > >intransitive) > > What do you mean by "eventive verbs"?
Verbs denoting events (as opposed to stative verbs).
> >DATIVE ("to/at/in"): recipients, experiencers of verbs of > >perception/emotion/cognition, goals, locations, possessors > >ABLATIVE ("from/of/out of"): sources, non-volitional agents of eventive > >verbs, > >standards of comparison, supersets in partitive relations, reasons/motives, > >substances > >INSTRUMENTAL ("with/by/via/through"): instruments and inanimate actors, > >measurements/durations, degrees of comparison > > 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: Absolutive subjects (undergoers): Ne Tsion itskane the-Abs John-Abs arrived "John arrived" Ne Tsion tioke the-Abs John-Abs died "John died" Nominative subjects (volitional agents): Na Tsion hostane the-Nom John-Nom danced "John danced" Na Tsion tsitspit kopo the-Nom John-Nom smashed-the pot-Abs "John smashed the pot" Ablative subjects (non-volitional animate agents): Inaul Tsionu tsitspit kopo the-Abl John-Abl smashed-the pot-Abs "John accidentally smashed the pot" Instrumental subjects (inanimate agents): Itan suhoua tsitspit kopo the-Inst wind-Inst smashed-the pot-Abs "The wind smashed the pot" (by blowing it off the table) Dative subjects (experiencers): Ine' Tsione hilin ikei the-Dat John-Dat saw-the dog-Abs "John saw the dog" Ine' Tsione kesta the-Dat John-Dat happy "John is happy" 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 The choice of which sentence to use depends on the degree of volitional involvement exhibited by John: The first sentence would be used if John cut his finger deliberately (e.g., in preparation for a blood-sibling ritual). The second sentence would be used if John performed an action which caused his finger to get cut, but did so without intent (e.g., he was cutting food and the knife slipped). The third sentence would be used if someone or something else cut John's finger (e.g., he was running along and accidentally grazed his hand against something sharp). 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? Matt.