Psych Verbs in Ergative Languages

Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol at MSCC.HUJI.AC.IL
Tue May 17 10:06:58 UTC 2005

"Psych Verbs", methinks, is not the best term for treating
the interesting problems regarding the various directions of
transitivity &c., and the whole question does not belong to
the technical aspects of language alone and to linguistic
typology in any narrow sense of the term. Not only different
verbs, but the very same verbs, may go both directions in
quite a few languages. Such cases are, e.g., numerous in
Semitic languages. Expressions like English "methinks" or
German "mir hungert" have been discussed in the grammatical
literature. For "I forget" you can say, e.g., in Amharic
"it forgets me" et. etc.  The implications of all that goes
beyond the linguistic constructions. We should probably
begin by neglecting the conception that the acting or
experiencing person is in any sense the "logical" or
"canonical" subject, as if other ways of expression deviate
from such basic structure. The fact that for each direction
there also exist other possibilities, lexical or grammatical,
needs its thought and terminology.
While not limited to the question raised here for itself,
the following references may be found relevant.
First, the book "Non-Canonical Marking of Subjects and Objects.
Edited by Aikhenvald, Dixon & Masayuki Onishi (Amsterdam /
Philadelphia 2001), where Martin Haspelmath's article on
"Non-Canonical Marking of Core Arguments in European Languages"
will be found. Relevant to the same questions may also be
Nichols, Peterson and Barnes, "Transitivizing and Detransitivizing
Languages", Linguistic Typology 8 (2004) 149 - 211.
I think, however, that a fresh approach in a different vein is
really needed. 			Gideon.

>---------------------Martin Haspelmath wrote:-----------------
>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

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