Ergativity correlations

J. Clancy Clements (Kapil) clements at INDIANA.EDU
Mon Feb 2 01:21:47 UTC 1998

On Sun, 1 Feb 1998, David Parkinson wrote:

>         Some of us here at Cornell are having a seminar on ergativity, and
> the question came up about whether anyone has ever carried out research to
> see whether ergativity correlates with any other aspects of linguistic
> structure (word order, head vs. dependent marking, presence of
> antipassive). Something like Dryer's or Nichols' research would be nice,
> but even something on a less sweeping scale. Anyone know of anything like
> this? There are reports in the literature such as "ergative" languages
> tending to have verb-initial or verb-final order, but has this ever been
> rigorously tested?

Dryer's 1986 "primary objects, secondary objects, and antidative"
(Language 62:808-45) is really good, I think.

A side note about the correlation between discourse and ergative-type
In Spanish, there are what I call "ergativity effects".  For example, the
default order of intransitive clause subjects and transitive clause
direct objects is postverbal.  It turns out that this is grounded in
discourse: topics are preverbal, focus elements are postverbal.  It could
be that discourse considerations underlie ergative marking in other
languages as well.  I'd be glad to give you a reference if you're

Clancy Clements

More information about the Funknet mailing list