Omissibility of Subjects- Malagasy

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Wed Nov 25 15:08:28 UTC 1998

Let me briefly comment upon Charles' Malagasy data and first ask,
whether sentences like _Ireto mianatra ireto ny mpianatra_ or _Ity
mianatra ity ny mpianatra_  (Charles' examples (1) and (2)) represent
the standard way of expressing a (non-deictic) reference in Malagasy.
According to my informants,

        (1) m-ianatra ny mpianatra
            PRES-study ART student

would be perfect (and pragamtically "normal" in the sense that number is
inferred from the context).
        Charles claims that "you canNOT leave out the subject NP 'ny
in either (1) or (2) simply because AGR is present in the sentence".
Obviously, this works under the condition that the deictic "circumfix"
(it's not a real affix, I know!) is present. The whole problem is
whether the deictic elements really are AGR, or - what I assume -
nothing but positional variants of NPs like DEIXIS-NOUN-DEIXIS, cp.

        (2) mianatra ireto mpianatra ireto

        (3) mianatra ity pianatra ity

[the article _ny_ being deleted if deicitic localization applies ON the
noun itself]. My informants indicated to me that utterances like those
in Charles' examples

        ((1)here: 4) ireto mianatra ireto ny mpianatra
        ((2)here: 5) ity mianatra ity ny mpianatra

represent something like a cataphoric cleft ("These/they study... the
student(s)"). It seems natural to me that you cannot omit the
right-clefted NP if cleft indicators (DEIXIS-VERB-DEIXIS) still are
present. You can delete the clefted NP only by "deleting" the cleft
structure itself, cp.:

        (5) mianatra ireto
            "These/they study..."

        (6) marikivy io (clefted: io marikivy io ny voasary)
            sour          ( sour orange)
            "that is sour"

[Charles probably will disagree with the cleft variant in (6), because
_marikivy_ is a "stative" verb, but "my" informants accepted it.] Hence,
the deictic elements do not seem to play the role of AGR, and,
consequently, there is no such relationship between AGR and subject that
would call for "the obligatory presence of the subject NP when AGR is
there". Let us put it this way: IF a verb has deitic markers, then it
indicates some kind of cataphoric right-cleft which (naturally) calls
for the presence of the clefted NP.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang SCHULZE
Institut für Allgemeine und Indogermanische
Sprachwissenschaft * Universität München
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1 * D-80539 München
Tel.: +89-2180 2486

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