ablative as ergative marker

Eva Schultze-Berndt Eva.Schultze-Berndt at MPI.NL
Wed Oct 21 13:08:34 UTC 1998

Dear typologists,

More on additional ergative markers:

In Jaminjung (Non-Pama-Nyungan, Australia) an alternative to
ergative-marking is ablative-marking of agents; this is relatively
infrequent, and the semantic nuance conveyed is that of a contrastive or
unexpected agent. This is particularly interesting because the ablative
case is otherwise restricted to representing the spatial source in a motion
event; a different case marker is used to encode origin (in space, of
material, etc.) and also cause.

In Australia ablative-marking of agents has also been reported for
Nunggubuyu (Heath 1984: 204f), a language which is primarily head-marking,
i.e. agents are normally unmarked, not ergative-marked.
I suspect this phenomenon is more common though (in light of the fact that
'source' markers can also mark agents in passives, e.g. in German).

Eva Schultze-Berndt

Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics
PB 310
NL-6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

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