passive / locative

Paul J Hopper ph1u+ at ANDREW.CMU.EDU
Tue May 5 13:29:12 UTC 1998

The agentive preposition in Germanic (and elsewhere in IE) BY-FROM isn't
strictly speaking locative but a SOURCE morpheme, which is a frequent
origin of agentive morphemes (as shown by DeLancey and others). What we
find in the Malay-Indonesian passive prefix is an apparent true locative
(di- = IN/AT), and this seems to be rare. But the similarity of the
locative preposition/prefix di- and the 3rd person passive prefix di- is
surely a modern conicidence, isn't it? It's true some scholars, such as
Hans Kaehler (Gr d B.I.), associate the two, translating e.g. saja
di-gigit-nja  [older spelling] = I am bitten by him as "ich bin in
seinem Beissen", but the most likely source of the passive di- seems to
be the Austronesian object-focus prefix ni-/-in-. I don't know what the
earlier story of the locative preposition di- is, but it seems unlikely
to me that it has gone lockstep with the development of verbal di- out
of ni-. It remains an interesting phenomenon that a historical accident
results in this kind of homophony, and it's something to chew on


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