[Lingtyp] Syncretism between forms encoding source and agent

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Tue Sep 25 07:15:05 EDT 2018

Dear all,

I am rather puzzled by Claude's factual claims about Indonesian.

On 25/09/2018 19:31, Claude Hagège wrote:
> According to David, « the use of /dari/ to mark agents is 
> characteristic of Eastern contact varieties of Malay. [He has]  heard 
> it in, among other places, Papua, Halmahera, Ambon, Maluku Tenggara 
> and Timor.  And it is also attested in the Kirinda subdialect of Sri 
> Lankan Malay ».  This use, though not quite widespread,  is not 
> unknown in Jakarta, in Bandung and in North-West Sumateran varieties 
> of Indonesian. In  these varieties, the most frequent mark of agents 
> is /oleh/, especially, but not only, after a passive verb, marked as 
> such by the prefix /di/-.
I am always reluctant to say something doesn't occur in 
Malay/Indonesian, there are so many geographically-, ethnically-, and 
socially-based dialects that differ from each other in myriad ways.  
Having said that, I have never heard /dari /marking agents (at least 
prototypical ones) in Jakarta or other western Indonesian varieties, so 
if it does exist, it is uncommon and of limited distribution.

As for /oleh/, it occurs "everywhere" if you're talking about the 
standard languages, but almost nowhere if you're concerned with 
colloquial varieties, the only exception being in Sabah, where, rather 
surprisingly, it is used colloquially to mark agents and also 
instruments.  In Jakarta and many other places in western Indonesia, the 
usual marking of agents is with /sama/ or a reduced form thereof.  If 
you have data in which the form /oleh/ occurs, then, other than for 
Sabah, it is most likely in a less colloquial register with at least 
some influence from the standard language.  A case in point is ...
> Interestingly, however, /oleh/ and /dari/ can both be used in certain 
> constructions. For example, in Bandung, I have heard both
> /dia  tidak  mati *dari*  penyakit/
> and
> /dia tidak mati *oleh*  penyakit/,
> both meaning, literally, « he is not dead because of illness ».
The presence of the negator /tidak/ in the above constructions is a 
tip-off that we're dealing here with something closer to the standard 
language:  in the colloquial Bandung variety of Indonesian, the most 
common negators are /nggak/ and /ndak/.

The take home message from this rather detailed discussion is that it's 
really important, when working on Malay/Indonesian and other such 
languages, to be very clear about which variety one is describing.

A separate issue here is whether "illness" is really an agent; it 
certainly isn't a prototypical one.  And in fact, I'm not sure what 
marker, if any, would be used to flag the word /penyakit/ 'illness' in 
the above sentence in Bandung.  A quick check of our MPI Jakarta Field 
Station corpus suggests that the most common strategy for expressing 
'die from X' is the zero-marked "mati X".

I attach herewith an (in progress) map from AMILS (Atlas of 
Malay/Indonesian Language Structures) showing the forms of the agent 
markers across colloquial Malay/Indonesian dialects.  (In the map, 
Bandung is indicated as having the agent marker /sama./)

Best wishes,


David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20180925/5a753458/attachment-0001.html>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: agent.jpeg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 206479 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20180925/5a753458/attachment-0001.jpeg>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list