[Lingtyp] Syncretism between forms encoding source and agent

Randy J. LaPolla randy.lapolla at gmail.com
Wed Sep 26 06:22:00 EDT 2018


Dear Claude,
As I outlined in my paper on the development of morphological systems (1995, reference in my earlier message, below), the path of development of such marking is from a general source/ablative marker to instrumental, to agentive, to causal clause marker. It isn’t necessary for any language to follow the whole path, or to fully conventionalise obligatory use of the marker (I have argued that the marking in many Sino-Tibetan languages is semantic and not syntactic, used only when thought necessary by the speaker for disambiguation or focus/emphasis), and Mandarin Chinese is one language where a source marker (由) can be used for marking an agent when the speaker feels it is necessary (there are certain circumstances when it is often used, such as the context you mentioned). 

I do not see bèi 被 as an agentive marker, though it is used for disambiguation of direction of action (as discussed by Y. R. Chao in his 1968 grammar, still the best grammar of Mandarin Chinese available), particularly as it is often used when the agent isn’t mentioned.

Although I agree with you that source and actor do need to be distinguished, as there are many languages that mark them differently, Mandarin is not the best language for supporting that argument.

All the best,
Randy
-----
Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地)
Professor of Linguistics, with curtesy appointment in Chinese, School of Humanities 
Nanyang Technological University
HSS-03-45, 14 Nanyang Drive | Singapore 637332
http://randylapolla.net/
Most recent book:
https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324







> On 25 Sep 2018, at 6:31 PM, Claude Hagège <claude-hagege at wanadoo.fr> wrote:
> 
> Dear Randy, dear David, dear all,
>  
>          To my knowledge, Mandarin由 (yóu) does not specifically mark the agent, but   the participant responsible for some situation or action, a participant who, thereby, acts as a source, as in
>  
> 准备工作 由 我负责 (zhǔnbèi gōngzùo yóu wǒ fùzé) « the person responsible for the preparation work will be me ».
>  
> The Mandarin adposition which marks the agent is usually 被 (bèi) rather than 由 ((yóu). For example,
>  
>  他们没有 被 困难吓倒 (tāmen méiyǒu bèi  kùnnán xiàdăo « they have not been frightened away by difficulties ».
>  
> It is interesting to note that, contrary to the common Sino-Tibetan tendency by which actor and source use the same adposition, Mandarin does not, at least in its present literary usage. This situation leads us to ask whether the notions of source and actor are not actually, despite the frequent formal syncretism induced by the semantic kinship, distinct notions.
> This suggestion could be borne out by Malay-Indonesian facts. 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-. 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 ».
>  
> According to informants (to the extent that their judgments are reliable…), the use of oleh rather than dari in this context stresses the fat that illness is seen as a deciding factor, implicitly comparable to a human being in terms of efficacy (so to say !).
>  
> Thus, the differences between the notions of source and agent, although often treated the same way in many languages, deserve an indepth study.
>  
> All the best
>  
> Claude  (Collège de France, Paris, chaire de théorie linguistique)
> (claude-hagege at wanadoo.fr <mailto:claude-hagege at wanadoo.fr>)
> 
> 
> De : Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org <mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org>] De la part de Randy J. LaPolla
> Envoyé : samedi 21 juillet 2018 13:43
> À : Ponrawee Prasertsom
> Cc : lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org <mailto:lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
> Objet : Re: [Lingtyp] Syncretism between forms encoding source and agent
>  
> Sorry, there is a typo in my last message: the Mandarin pronunciation of the Sinitic word I mentioned should be yóu (not yǒu).
>  
> Randy
> -----
> Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地)
> Professor of Linguistics and Chinese, School of Humanities 
> Nanyang Technological University
> HSS-03-45, 14 Nanyang Drive | Singapore 637332
> http://randylapolla.net/ <http://randylapolla.net/>
> Most recent book:
> https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324 <https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324>
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> On 21 Jul 2018, at 7:31 PM, Randy J. LaPolla <randy.lapolla at gmail.com <mailto:randy.lapolla at gmail.com>> wrote:
>  
> Dear Ponrawee Prasertsom,
> In the Sino-Tibetan languages it is common for the same adposition to be used for ablative (source), instrument, manner adverb, actor, and/or causal clause marker. See the following papers:
>  
> LaPolla, Randy J. 1995. On the utility of the concepts of markedness and prototypes in understanding the development of morphological systems. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology  66.4:1149-1185.
> www.ntu.edu.sg/home/randylapolla/Papers/LaPolla_1995_On_the_Utility_of_the_Concepts_of_Markedness_and_Prototypes_in_Understanding_the_Development_of_Morphological_Systems.pdf <http://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/randylapolla/Papers/LaPolla_1995_On_the_Utility_of_the_Concepts_of_Markedness_and_Prototypes_in_Understanding_the_Development_of_Morphological_Systems.pdf> 
>  
> LaPolla, Randy J. 1995. Ergative marking in Tibeto-Burman. In Yoshio Nishi, James A. Matisoff, & Yasuhiko Nagano (eds.), New horizons in Tibeto-Burman morpho-syntax (Senri Ethnological Studies 41), 189-228. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.
> www.ntu.edu.sg/home/randylapolla/Papers/LaPolla_1995_Ergative_Marking_in_Tibeto-Burman.pdf <http://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/randylapolla/Papers/LaPolla_1995_Ergative_Marking_in_Tibeto-Burman.pdf>
>  
> LaPolla, Randy J. 2004. On nominal relational morphology in Tibeto-Burman. In Ying-jin Lin, Fang-min Hsu, Chun-chih Lee, Jackson T.-S. Sun, Hsiu-fang Yang, and Dah-an Ho (eds.),  Studies on Sino-Tibetan languages: Papers in honor of Professor Hwang-cherng Gong on his seventieth birthday, 43-74. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica, December 2004.
> www.ntu.edu.sg/home/randylapolla/Papers/LaPolla_2004_On_Nominal_Relational_Morphology_in_Tibeto-Burman.pdf <http://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/randylapolla/Papers/LaPolla_2004_On_Nominal_Relational_Morphology_in_Tibeto-Burman.pdf>
>  
> These papers mainly talk about Tibeto-Burman, but in Sinitic (Chinese) the same is true of the particle yǒu (由).
>  
> All the best,
> Randy   
> -----
> Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地)
> Professor of Linguistics and Chinese, School of Humanities 
> Nanyang Technological University
> HSS-03-45, 14 Nanyang Drive | Singapore 637332
> http://randylapolla.net/ <http://randylapolla.net/>
> Most recent book:
> https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324 <https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324>
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> On 21 Jul 2018, at 6:06 AM, Ponrawee Prasertsom <ponrawee.pra at gmail.com <mailto:ponrawee.pra at gmail.com>> wrote:
>  
> Dear all,
>  
> I am exploring research possibilities on the language of motion events.
>  
> Does anyone know of a language that employs the same form (in any strategy--case, preposition, syntactic roles etc.) that for coding source (the starting point in a motion event, as in: I walked *from* my house to school) and agent? 
>  
> Related references would also be highly appreciated.
>  
> Sincerely,
>  
> Ponrawee Prasertsom
>  
> Graduate Student
> Department of Linguistics
> Chulalongkorn University
> Bangkok, Thailand
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