Marked features e.g. in Mobilian

David Robertson drobert at TINCAN.TINCAN.ORG
Sun Mar 21 06:47:20 UTC 1999


Just received a copy of "American Indian Linguistics and Ethnography in
Honor of Laurence C. Thompson" (Missoula, MT:  U. of Montana, 1993) [UMOPL
No. 10].  Emanuel Drechsel's paper there, "Basic Word Order in Mobilian
Jargon:  SOV or OSV?", has relevance to a discussion we've been having on
this list.

p. 344:  "[P]idgins need not reflect universal patterns as thought earlier
(see, e.g., Kay and Sankoff 1974), but may actually exhibit highly marked
features of syntax."

Drechsel goes on to discuss possible analyses and sources for Mobilian's
apparent OSV word order, and cites at least a handful of unmarkedly OSV
languages in the world.

However, he does make clear [p. 361] that "Mobilian Jargon speakers did
not...preserve any ergative-like characteristics" from the lexifier and
substrate languages.  That grammatical feature is as absent here as it is
in ChInuk Wawa.

Drechsel's point elsewhere in the paper, that Mobilian word-order is deep-
structural, has great relevance to ChInuk as well.  Both languages are
analytic in nature, that is, they rely on word order to elucidate the
function (subject or object, for example) of a given word in a sentence.
It would then be presumably unlikely that say ergativity could be
expressed in such a language, given that word-order restrictions already
dictate subject and object, i.e. accusative-nominative, functions.

My questions now are:  Are all pidgins analytic?  Do creoles tend to be
analytic?  Is an understanding of e.g. ChInuk or Mobilian as an analytic
ergative language possible?  Are there other analytic ergative languages?
I realize that these may seem to be questions which have very obvious
answers, but to discuss our assumptions may be enlightening.  (For
example, in my experience languages considered to be ergative have
suffixation, but why couldn't we look for ergativity in analytic
languages, or at least say that the distinction between ergativity and
accusativity is neutralized in that environment?)

Thank you for brainstorming;

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