Edith A Moravcsik edith at CSD.UWM.EDU
Wed Nov 3 22:07:43 UTC 1999

On Wed, 3 Nov 1999, Matthew S Dryer wrote:

> Edith's response to my query does not address what I see as the central
> issue.  Consider the case of a language where the antipassive verb form is
> used if and only if the "object" is indefinite and the basic
> non-antipassive form is used if and only if the "object" is definite.  One
> can infer from the antipassive form of the verb that the "object" is
> indefinite and from the basic form that the "object" is definite.  Assume
> further than in basic clauses, the verb agrees with the definite objects
> for various features like person and number.  From Edith's
> characterization in her earlier message, it would follow that the basic
> vs. antipassive morphology is coding agreement in definiteness, which is
> counterintuitive.  My question is whether there is some argument that
> Hungarian is different from this.
> Matthew

The situation Matthew describes is like this:

   (1) basic sentences:
       - if and only if the object is definite
       - the verb must agree with the (definite) object in, say, number


       (a) John hit-SING.OBJ the boy.
       (b) John hit-PLU.OBJ  the boys.
          *John hit-0 the boy.
          *John hit-0 the boys.
          *John hit(-SING.OBJ) a boy.
          *John hit(-PLU.OBJ)  some boys.

   (2) antipassive:
       - if and only if the object is indefinite
       - the verb must not agree with the indefinite object


       (a) John hit at a boy.
       (b) John hit at some boys.
          *John hit(-SING.OBJ) at the boy.
          *John hit(-PLU.OBJ) at the boys.

Matthew then asked whether this was similar to Hungarian.
In Hungarian, what would have to correspond to basic and antipassive
sentences are transitive sentences with a definite object and transitive
sentences with an indefinite object, respectively. Here are the Hungarian

   (1) transitive sentences with definite object:
       - the object, by definition, must be definite
       - the verb must have the kind of endings that go with
         definite objects; but there are no separate endings for
         definite objects differing from each other in
         gender or number)


      (a) John hit-DEF.OBJ the boy.
         *John hit-INDEF.OBJ the boy.
         *John hit-DEF.OBJ a boy.

   (2) transitive sentences with indefinite object:
       - the object, by definition, must be indefinite
       - the verb takes the endings that are used both with indefinite
         objects and on intransitive verbs and shows no
         distinctions of the object such as number or gender


      (a) John hit-INDEF.OBJ a boy.

I see two differences between the two scenarios - the first schema above
and Hungarian.
   - First, the direct object of the basic sentence and the
indirect object of the antipassive sentence would have different case
markers. In Hungarian, definite and indefinite objects have the same case
   - Second, in the first case, the verb of the basic sentence agrees
with the object in some property such as number or gender whereas in
Hungarian sentences with definite objects, such properties of the object
are irrelevant for verb inflection.

Thus, in the first instance, it seems there is more involved in the
difference between the basic and the antipassive sentences: definiteness
versus indefiniteness conditions both case marking and agreement in that
definite objects are in the accusative and are agreed with by the verb,
while indefinite objects are in an oblique case and are not agreed with.
In Hungarian, the difference between sentences with definite objects and
sentences with indefinite objects is only agreement: the former take one
set of verb inflection and the latter another set. Case marking, however,
remains the same.


			 Edith A. Moravcsik
			 Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics
			 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
		         Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413

			 E-mail: edith at
		         Telephone: (414) 229-6794 /office/
				    (414) 332-0141 /home/
		         Fax: (414) 229-2741


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