passive and locative (fwd)

Wed May 6 18:28:51 UTC 1998

Ricardo has asked me to forward this to the lingtyp list, which I am doing


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 19:44:21 +0200 (METDST)
From: Ricardo Gomez Lopez <fvpgolor at>
To: DAVID GIL <dgil at UDel.Edu>
Subject: Re: passive and locative

Basque locative _-(e)n_ has several homophonous morphs in Basque grammar
(e.g. the complementizer _-(e)n_, or the past-tense marker _-(e)n_). One
of them is a mysterious infix _-(e)n-_ (or its allomorph _-in(d)-_) which
appears in some kinds of finite verb forms (all of them are non-present

	a. In transitive verbs when the object is first or second person:

		(1)	i.	ikusi zin-tu-da-n
				seen you(ABS)-have-I(ERG)-past
				'I saw you'

			ii.	nind-erama-zu-n
				'you used to take me'

	b. In transitive verbs when the object is third person AND the
subject is first or second person plural (Basque current second person is
morphologically (and historically) plural):

		(2)	i.	ikusi gen-u-en
				seen we(ERG)-have-past
				'we saw it/her/him'

			ii.	zen-ekarr-en
				'you used to bring it/her/him'

	c. In intransitive verbs:

		(3) 	i.	zinen
				'you were'

			ii.	nen-bil-en
				'I used to walk'

These contexts seem to be rather heterogeneous, but most vascologists
propose a common source and a subsequent analogical spread. The
controversial point is which of the contexts above is the original one.
In fact this is one of the most enigmatic issues of the historical
morphology of the Basque verb.

Amongst others, Larry Trask analized _-(e)n-_ as an ancient passive
marker. Basque has no passive voice but its ergative construction has
been considered --as in many other languages-- a consequence of a
(stylistic) generalization of the passive voice. So the context in (a)
would have been the original one, and (b) and (c) would have been
extended analogical contexts.

Another point of view defends that the infix _-(e)n-_ is a sort of
redundant marker of past tense, maybe older that the common suffix _-(e)n_.

Recently, Pablo Albizu and Luis Eguren have proposed two different
morphemes, /-in-/ and /-en-/. The first one (that of (a) and (c)) would
be characteristic of intransitive verbs whereas that of (b) would be a
pluralizer, i.e. an ergative plural marker.

Ricardo Gomez
Euskal Filologia Saila (Dept. of Basque Philology)
Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (University of the Basque Country)
P.O. Box 2111.
E-01080 Vitoria-Gasteiz.
tel.: + 34-45 18 30 00 (Ext. 3983)
fax: + 34-45 14 42 90
e-mail: fvpgolor at

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list