accusative and ergative languages
Patrick C. Ryan
proto-language at email.msn.com
Tue Aug 3 21:37:50 UTC 1999
Dear Larry and IEists:
----- Original Message -----
From: Larry Trask <larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk>
Sent: Friday, July 30, 1999 3:40 AM
[ moderator snip ]
> Your original assertion was that the passive interpretation of ergative
> languages was not only defensible but, in your view, correct. By this
> you clearly meant that ergative constructions, in general, *are*
> passives. This is the view which was once popular among European
> linguists, which has been effectively demolished, and which is correctly
> dismissed by Dixon elsewhere on that same page as without support among
> linguists today.
Well, maybe you think it has been demolished but obviously other practicing
linguists do not.
> The point in your cited passage is an entirely different one: do all
> ergatives derive historically from passives? Dixon notes that a few
> people have argued that the answer is `yes', but then goes on to provide
> what, in his view, is good evidence that the correct answer is `no'.
Well, Dixon is wrong and so are you.
> Whatever view one might adopt on this second point, it is clearly
> distinct from the first point. Claiming that "all ergatives *descend*
> from passives" is the same proposition as "all ergatives *are* passives"
> is rather like claiming that "all humans descend from their
> grandparents" is the same proposition as "all humans *are* their
I am not interested in your rhetorical flourishes. Stick to the point if you
want to discuss it.
[ Moderator's comment:
I think that effectively ends this debate: If Mr. Ryan believes that
pointing out such a change in argument is a "rhetorical flourish", there is
little left to be said, on either side.
PATRICK C. RYAN (501) 227-9947; FAX/DATA (501)312-9947 9115 W. 34th St.
Little Rock, AR 72204-4441 USA WEBPAGES:
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/2803 and PROTO-RELIGION:
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meipi er mangi veit hvers hann af rstum renn." (Havamal 138)
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