Psych Verbs in Ergative Languages

Annie Montaut montaut at EHESS.FR
Wed May 25 22:18:13 UTC 2005

Dear all

among South Indian languages, quite a few are ergative and exhibit
patterns for experiencing predicates where the stimulus is usually in
the unmarked case and the experiencer in the dative case.

/mujhe baRî khushî huî/

I-dat great happyness-fs was-fs

I was very happy

/mujhe (aisâ) lagâ ki/

I-dat (such) stick that

I felt that

alternation dative-genitive case

/mujhe/merî bahar jâne kî icchâ hai/

I-dat/I-gen outside go-inf of desire is

I feel like going out

However, the expression of the experiencer in the nominative case also
occur, with verbo-nominal predicates which regularly alternate /be/ and
/do/ in the verbal position with respective connotations of
unexpectedness unwillingness, undeliberateness vs deliberateness (pasand
honâ (taste be) « please, like », vs pasand karnâ (taste do) « like,
chose ». With predicates barely meaning « feel » (/mahasûs honâ /
mahasûs karnâ/, feeling be /feeling do) such semantic alternations is
obviously irrelevant, but what seems to be relevant is the degree of
awareness and conscious assumtion by the experiencer :
maine mahasûs kiyâ ki
I-erg feeling did that "I felt that" (+ awareness)
mujhe mahsûs huâ ki
I-dat feeling was that "I felt that (- awareness)

a statement explicitely pointing to the unawareness of the experiencer
is very unnatural with a nominative ‘agent’ and a factive verb:

/ mujhe us samay tumse irshya thî par mujhe uska bodh nahîn thâ/

I-dat that time you-from jealousy was but I-dat of-that awareness neg was

I was jealous from you then but I was not aware of that

/ * ?main us samay tumse irshya kar rahî thî par mujhe iskâ bodh nahîn thâ/

I that time you-from jealousy do progr past but I-dat that-of awareness
neg was

In non-ergative South Asian languages, the pattern does not seem to
differ much (most of them also exhibit this type of alternation)

more facts in the various papers in /Non-nominative subjects/ (Benjamin,
2004, PeriBaskararao & KV. Subbarao eds, 2 vol.)

and chapter 3 in /Hindi Grammar/, Annie Montaut, Lincom Europa 2004

Carol Rosen a écrit :

> 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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