Ergative pattern of imperatives?

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Tue Mar 2 17:35:43 UTC 2010


Dear friends,
just a brief question: Abkhaz and Abaza (West Caucasian) are known for 
having a rather unusual (?) pattern of imperative formation: In both 
languages, 'true' imperatives (that is: second person imperatives) of 
intransitive verbs are marked for the presence of the corresponding 
'absolutive' agreement morpheme, e.g./ w-c'a/ 'go (man)!',/ b-c'a/ 'go 
(woman)!', /shw-c'a/ 'go you (all)!' and so forth. With transitive 
verbs, this agreement marker is missing in the singular - instead, the 
verb shows the 'absolutive' marker for the Objective (/y/- for 
inanimates, /d/- for animates), e.g/. y-ga/ 'take (it)!', /d-ga/ 'take 
(him/her!)',/ d-sh'e^/ 'kill (him/her)'. Note that in the plural, the 
corresponding 'ergative' morpheme for A is present, e.g./ y-zhw-ga/ 
'take (you) (it)' etc. (the original morpheme /shw/ = 2PL is assimilated 
to the stem consonant in A-function only). Obviously, we have to deal 
with a strong ergative pattern (S=O;A) in the singular that the marks 
the verb for the given central actant (S=O) only. My simple question is 
whether this pattern has good parallels in other languages. Also, I 
would be interested in learning of how to explain the distribution 
singular imperative S=O[;A], but plural (more or less) S=A;O. 
Unfortunately, WALS does not discuss this pattern in details, as far as 
I can see.....
Many thanks in advance and sorry for my possible ignorance,
Wolfgang

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*Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze *

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