Volitional patients

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Wed Mar 22 15:33:05 UTC 2006

Dear Ashild,

quite an interesting issue, you haven mentioned! The Icelandic data have  
some parallels in other Germanic languages, at least diachronically  
(compare the distribution of Dative and Accusative 'Objects' e.g. in  
German and other types of O-Split). Outside Germanic, you may perhaps want  
to look at those instances in which the Generalized Force Schema  
(A(gentive) = Volitional/Force) vs. O(bjective) = non-Volitional/nForce)  
is manipulated in case the Objective is marked for Force/Volition  
properties (what I call CounterForce). CounterForce (or simply cForce) may  
entail the notion of volition, but not necessarily. The main point, I  
guess, is that Force properties of a referent in Objective function are  
highlightened in the constructional type you have mentioned. As a result,  
the notion of volition may become apparant, but in other cases, the Force  
feature is more dominant. For instance in Bella Coola (or NuXalk; Salish),  
you have at least three constructional types to indicate semantic  
properties of the A->O schema:

The standard version (A:Force -> O:nForce) would be:

tx-i-s                      'aleks   ti-q'lsx°-tx
cut-3sg:o-3sg:a   Alex     ref:prox:m-rope-ref
'Alex cuts the rope.' [A:Force -> O:nForce]

The intransitive version (O being backgrounded) indicated a decrease of  
Force with A:

tx-a                  'aleks   x-ti-q'lsx°-tx
cut-intr:3sg:s   Alex    dir-ref:prox:m-rope-ref
'Alex is cutting a rope.' [A>S -> O>PER]

But in case the 'rope' is thought to exert some kind of CounterForce that  
hinders the Agentive to 'cut the rope at once', a verbal suffix -nix- is  

tx-ay-nix-i-s                       'aleks    ti-q'lsx°-tx
cut-aux-cF-3sg:o-3sg:a   Alex     ref:prox:m-rope-ref
'Alex finally manages to cut the rope.' [A:Force -> O:cForce)]

The meaning would be: Alex intends to cut the rope, but the rope is too  
strong to have it cut at once -> Alex needs more energy to overcome this  
counter-force -> but he finally manages to cut the rope....

There is some evidence that the Athapaskan bi-/yi-distinction, too, stems  
 from a similar pattern (bi- = A:Force -> O:nForce, yi- = A:Force ->  
O:cForce). But I leave that to people more experienced in Athapaskan  
linguistics than I am.

Best wishes,
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institut für Allgemeine und Typologische Sprachwissenschaft
[General Linguistics and Language Typology]
Department für Kommunikation und Sprachen / F 13.14
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
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D-80539 München
Tel.: ++49-(0)89-2180 2486 (secretary)
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E-mail: W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de
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