VS: Applicative comparison structures

Fabre Alain alain.fabre at TUT.FI
Fri Dec 7 09:16:19 UTC 2012

Dear Laura, 
I have some examples which might be of interest. These are from Nivacle, a Mataguayo language spoken in the Paraguayan Chaco. Instead of oblique NPs, Nivacle employs obligatory applicative suffixes on verbs. Apart from twenty applicative suffixes, Nivacle has also three associated motion suffixes, which indicate direction of a non-subject participant, and are also suffixed to the verb, e.g. I saw him coming (with: -xulh: ventive), I saw her going away (with : -ch’e/-k’e: itive), and I expected his coming (with delayed ventive: -k’oya). Interestingly, Nivacle does not use applicatives in comparisons, but one of two associated motion suffixes, ventive for equality, and delayed ventive for introducing the positive standard:

1) Positive:

‘I am taller than you’

2) Equality. In the following example, which is fairly representative and by no ways exceptional, a verb ‘to be deep’ has been nominalized and then predicatively used: 

‘They have the same depth’ (“Their depth is like one another’s”)

3) Negative. The negative comparison is more complex. It is achieved through a two-verb construction, which combines the defective verb a’lha ‘be.less’ followed by a third person instrumental applicative (-e-sh), and the verb containing the standard of comparison and the delayed ventive suffix (second example). If the standard of comparison is an NP, this bears no special marking (first example):   

pa 	plomo 	kaclek 			a’lhe-e-sh 							pav’elhcha 		klesanlhi-y
D		lead		3S.be.heavy  	3S.be.less-3-APPL.INST		other				metal-PL
‘other metals are less heavy than lead’ (“lead is heavy, the other metals are less”)

avaatsha		a’lhe-e-sh							ca		na-t’un-‘in-yi-k’oya
you (sg.)	3S.be.less-3-APPL.INST		SUB	2S-be.strong-INTENS-1-AM.DELAYED.VENT
‘you are less strong than me’ (“you are less that you are strong than me”)

All the best,
Alain Fabre

Lähettäjä: Discussion List for ALT [LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] käyttäjän Kertz, Laura [laura_kertz at BROWN.EDU] puolesta
Lähetetty: 7. joulukuuta 2012 2:43
Aihe: Applicative comparison structures

Dear colleagues,

I am searching for examples of a type of comparative structure which seems to be typologically rare but may simply be under-reported.

In this type of structure, an applicative marker on a verb or adjective licenses an additional argument, which can be interpreted as a standard of comparison. Because the applicative argument is a direct object, these structures differ from the adverbial comparatives described by Stassen and others (and are different again from particle comparatives, exceed comparatives, and adversative/coordinate comparatives).  These have received relatively little attention in large-scale surveys, but are noted in Dixon 2008 and in a footnote in Bobaljik 2012.

This seems like a fairly natural way to form a comparative if a language has a rich system of valence-altering verbal inflection and if the language either lacks adjectives altogether or inflects adjectives in much the same way as verbs. After much looking, however, I have turned up only a handful of additional instances.

If you happen to know of a language that forms comparatives in this way, I would appreciate hearing from you.  I am interested in any of the following three subtypes (or others I may not have considered):
1) alternation between presposition incorporation and a case-marked oblique
2) homophonous/general purpose applicative marker (no alternation)
3) dedicated comparative applicative marker (no alternation)

Many thanks in advance,

Laura Kertz

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