Ergativity correlations

Jon Aske aske at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue Feb 3 03:39:05 UTC 1998


I'm not sure I follow you here.

> At least one test I know of may suggest that there is a certain
> ergative-like effect in the distribution of subjects in Spanish.  Bare
> plural subjects can only appear as foci, never as topics. So, of all the
> possible candidates for subjects, all can appear postverbally, but not all
> preverbally.

Sure, some ideas make very poor topic candidates (those that are very low in
topicality, such as non-referential ones).  On the other hand, all ideas can
be the focus of an assertion in some context or another.  I'm not sure of
what this has to do with ergativity.  Transitive subjects can be foci too,
though less often than absolutive subjects, and for a variety of reasons,
but not because they are A's as opposed to S's, i.e. not because of their
grammatical category.  Grammatical relations/categories really cannot
explain anything.

> BUT in the marking of
> DOs and IOs in Spanish, there is a Primary Object - Secondary Object
> marking, and this is also found in the Castilian pronominal system.  Dryer
> (1986) shows that such a system is analogous to ergative - absolutive
> marking.  I'd be happy to give you references if you're interested.

Perhaps you could give us some examples and what it is that you interpret as
being analogous to ergative-absolutive marking in the Spanish pronominal
system.  I am familiar with Dryer's paper, although I have more than a few
problems with it, and Matthew probably does too now, but I'm not sure I see
how it applies to this case.

If there is no general interest in this topic I'll be happy to continue this
conversation in private.  I just learned that there are over 800 people out
there lurking who may be bored by all this.

Best, Jon
Jon Aske - aske at
Jon.Aske at
Salem State College
Salem, Massachusetts 01970

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