Summary: Double absolutives
A.Naess at LET.KUN.NL
Fri Mar 15 15:19:11 UTC 2002
I want to thank all those who took the trouble to reply to my query about
languages which show instances of double absolutive marking in
two-participant clauses (in no particular order): Igone Zabala, Kameshwa
Wali, Lea Brown, Michael Daniel, Balthasar Bickel, Maria Polinsky, Tasaku
Tsunoda, Seppo Kittilä, Matt Shibatani, Peter Austin, and Greville Corbett.
A brief summary of what they told me follows below.
Double-absolutive constructions are indeed not uncommon, and seem to fall
into two categories: Those where certain verbs require this case-frame, and
those where the construction occurs independently of verbal semantics and
expresses a specific grammatical meaning. The latter is the case in Basque,
where it denotes that 'the event is happening in the moment of speech', and
in a number of Daghestanian languages where it is generally associated with
patient demotion or other reduced-transitive contexts.
Languages where the double-absolutive construction is conditioned by verbal
semantics include the Malayo-Polynesian language Nias Selatan (Brown 2001)
and certain Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas (Bickel 2001); in both
these cases it occurs with a number of Experiencer verbs - including "like"
which takes the double-nominative construction in Japanese and Korean.
There are also some Australian languages which show double absolutives with
"cognate object" verbs of the type "dance a dance", "speak a language". The
Polynesian language Tongan (Tsunoda 1981) and the Australian language Djaru
(Tsunoda 1985) show double absolutives with verbs of possession.
Finally, a number of people pointed out to me that in split-ergative
languages you will get double-unmarked (nominative-absolutive)
constructions with certain combinations of arguments.
Thanks again to everyone who replied. The references they provided are
Austin, Peter. 1981. A grammar of Diyari, South Australian. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Brown, Lea. 2001. A Grammar of Nias Selatan. PhD dissertation, University
Bickel, Balthasar, 2001. The syntax of experiencers in the Himalayas. In:
Bhaskararao, Peri [ed.], Working Papers of the International Symposium on
Non-Nominative Subjects, Tokyo, December 18-21, 2001, pp. 207 37. Tokyo:
Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa [also
available at http://www.spw.unizh.ch/mitarbeiter/bickel/papers].
Kazenin, Konstantin. 1998. On patient demotion in Lak. In Kulikov and Vater
(eds.): Typology of verbal categories: Papers presented to Vladimir
Nedjalkov on the occasion of his 70th birthday, pp. 95-116.
Kibrik, A. E. 1994. Archi. In: Rieks Smeets (ed.) Indigenous Languages of
the Caucasus IV: North East Caucasian Languages II: presenting The Three
Nakh Languages and Six Minor Lezgian Languages, 297-365. Delmar, NY:
Kibrik et al (eds.).1996. Godoberi. München - Newcastle: LINCOM Europa.
Polinsky, Maria, and Bernard Comrie. 1999. 'Agreement in Tsez.' Folia
Shibatani, Masayoshi. 2001a. Non-canonical constructions in Japanese. In
Aikhenvald, A., R.M.W.Dixon, and M. Onishi (eds.) Non-Canonical Marking of
Subjects and Objects. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 307-354.
- 2001b. Dative subject constructions in South Asian languages. In
Bhaskararao, P. and K.V. Subbarao (eds.) The Yearbook of South Asian
Languages and Linguistics. New Delhi: Sage Publications. 311-348.
(Co-author: Prashant Pardeshi).
Tsunoda, Tasaku. 1981. Split case-marking patterns in verb-types and
tense/aspect/mood. Linguistics Vol.19, Nos.5/6:389-438. The Hague: Mouton.
- 1985. Remarks on transitivity. Journal of Linguistics, Vol.21,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
- 1988. Antipassives in Warrungu and other Australian languages. In
Shibatani (ed.), Passive and voice (Typological Studies in Language,
649. Amsterdam: John Benjamins
University of Nijmegen
6525 GG Nijmegen
+31 24 3616028
a.naess at let.kun.nl
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