ablative as ergative marker

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Tue Oct 27 10:11:50 UTC 1998

Re Scott DeLancey's question:

>Ergatives seem to have a more diverse set of origins, but not
>unlimited.  They may derive from genitives (probably through
>a grammaticalized nominative construction in which the subject
>is marked as a possessor, i.e. something like _John's shooting
>the dog_ being reanalyzed as a finite construction), or from
>instrumentals or (and?) ablatives, for fairly straightforward
>semantic reasons (again, see Clark and Carpenter, or my 1981
>paper in Language, or the work of John Anderson).  Does anybody
>have suggestions of other paths?)

Let me propose two further paths: a) DEIXIS > ERG. A standard example
seems to be given by Awaro-Andian (East Caucasian) and probably in many
other East Cauacsian langauges (on a diachronic level). A central aspect
of Awaro-andian noun paradigms is that of "stem augmentation" (SA), cp.
lit. Awar /was/ "boy" (ABS), ERG /was:-as/ (boy-SA-ERG[+masc]), /yas/
"girl" (ASB), ERG /yas:-all:[-masc]/ (-ll- = strong lateral
fricative)and Karata (Andian) /c:'ew/ "guest" (ABS), ERG /c':ew-ss:u-l/
(-ss- = palatal fricative) (guest-SA[+masc]-ERG), /laga/ "body" (ABS),
ERG /laga-ll:i-l/ (body-SA[-mas])-ERG). Comparative evidence proposes
that */-s:-/ and */-ll:-/ originally had been emphatic markers
(subcategorizing the cluster ERG according to [+masc;+human] vs.
[-masc;±human] (see my email (19.10.1998 "a question about ergative
markers" for a comment on such splits ("DAM")). Though the given
paradigm is restricted to certain classes of nouns (but common with
adjectives and pronouns), it seems to me that the strategy to
emphatically mark a transitive agent with the help of (old) deicitic
clitics has been (and sometimes still is) a central technique in East
Caucasian (also conpare Georgian (South Caucasian) that has generalized
a deictic (ergative) "stem" for nominal ergatives (/-ma(n)/). The
underlying mechanism seems to be quite obvious, given the fact that the
East Caucasian languages had a strong "pragmatic" component in
linguistically construing "events".

b) In some South East Caucasian languages (as well as in some other
languegs of the East Caucasian grooup) we can observe a high degree of
pseudo-allomorphy with respect to ergative case markers (I call that
pseudo-allomorphy, because these elements are allmrphs wirth respect to
their general function ERG, but morphologically distinct with respect to
other aspects (such as noun classification). Again, deixis could be a
source, but sometimes it seems that the classificational component
originally had been decisive. Though East Caucasian languages follow a
basically covert strategy of noun classification, there seem to be
residues of on older (?) and restricted (?) overt system that perhaps
used generic-like "nouns" to mark "agentivity" with transitive nouns.
Hence, another path may have been CLASS MARKER > ERG (but note that I do
nt talk about the "standard" class markers in East Caucasian that
overtly appear with nouns only in quite young paradigms (and - perhaps -
with some old kin terms)).

But whatever the grammaticalization paths of the multiple ERG morphemes
in East Caucasian had been: We should remember the fact that up to now
the internal history of most of these markers remains in the dark.

In general I think that the question of how ergative markers become
grammticalized heavily depends on the way we describe the emergence of
ergativity itself in a given language. If we assume a "passive"
background (such as in Indo-Iranian) with all its implications
(TAM-restictions etc.), it is very likely that ERG cases are based on
locatives etc. ("from space to case" (the title of a paper that I
currently prepare with special reference to East Caucasian). But if we
assume that ergativity is strongly discourse- or knowledge-based (as for
instance in East Caucasian), then other aspects of co-paradigmatization
(e.g., focus markers and agentivity) may enter the game.

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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