Psych Verbs in Ergative Languages

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Tue May 17 07:22:21 UTC 2005

The only work I know that addresses Carol's question somewhat
systematically is the following:

Bossong, Georg. 1998. "Le marquage de l'expérient dans les langues
d'Europe". In: Feuillet, Jack (ed.) Actance et valence dans les langues
de l'Europe. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 259-94.

Bossong looks at the equivalents of 10 experiential predicates (among
them 'forget' and 'remember') in 40 languages. (However, he does not
look at the equivalents of English predicates which are generally
thought to have a causative meaning component, such as 'frighten'.)

A serious limitation of Bossong's study is that his 40 languages are all
from (greater) Europe. However, it includes some languages with ergative


Carol Rosen wrote:

> I have a question about psych verbs in languages with ergative
> morphology.
> English psych verbs, of course, vary a lot in how they treat the
> experiencers.  Verbs like remember, forget, fear take the experiencer as
> subject, while such verbs as annoy, bother, frighten seem to take the
> experiencer as direct object.  In other languages the experiencer often
> appears as a dative.
> I hope to discover whether any one of these patterns tends to be
> preferred
> in languages with ergative morphology.
> I'm grateful not only for data, but also for references to appropriate
> sources.  --  With thanks, Carol Rosen

Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6	
D-04103 Leipzig
Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616

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