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quirky case (was: Re: New Language Sketch)

From:Matt Pearson <jmpearson@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 1, 1999, 3:50
Tom Wier wrote:

>Speaking of case marking, does anyone use quirky case like >Icelandic does? Some Icelandic verbs require really odd cases >not just for objects (anyone who's learned Latin or Greek is >used to those), but for subjects too. For example, > >(1) Hana vantar mat. > she:ACC lacks food:ACC > "She lacks food." > >(2) Barninu batna=F0i veikin > the.child:DAT recovered.from the.disease:NOM > "The child recovered from the disease." > >(3) Verkjanna g=E6tir ekki > the.pains:GEN is.noticeable not > "The pains aren't noticeable." > >In all of these examples, the first word is the subject -- and yet >each verb requires a certain case marking as a lexically determined >feature of the verb. Fun!
Subject case-marking in Tokana is super-quirky. Subject can take ergative, absolutive, dative, ablative, or instrumental case, depending on the verb. There are certain patterns, though: (1) Verbs denoting volitional activities generally take ergative subjects (although there are numerous exceptions). Note, though, that the ergative case can only be used for definite animate subjects. If the subject is inanimate, it's marked with instrumental case. If the subject is animate indefinite, it's marked with ablative case. (2) Motion verbs take ergative subjects if their meaning emphasises manner of motion ("walk", "run", "swim", "fly") and absolutive case if their meaning emphasises trajectory of motion ("come/go", "arrive", "leave", "enter", "go through"). (3) Stative verbs typically take absolutive subjects. (4) Psych verbs - i.e., verbs denoting emotional or epistemological states - typically take dative subjects, although there are some important exceptions ("love" takes an ergative subject, for example). (5) Auxiliaries are idiosyncratic: "can" and "must" take ergative/ablative subjects, "become" takes an absolutive subject, and "intend to" and "want to" take a dative subject.