Question on agentive nominalizations

Eduardo Rivail Ribeiro kariri at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 17 21:16:34 UTC 2008


About Canela-Krahô, it might be important to notice that, although its agent 
nominals' arguments "are signalled in the same way as verb-argument 
relations in finite clauses", that doesn't mean much.  Indeed, the agent 
nominal is preceded by its "object," and that would seem to mirror the 
object's behavior in sentences (the language is SOV; main arguments bear no 
overt morphological marking).  But that is also the same behavior with 
genitive constructions, and its very likely that the construction 
[object-agent.noun] is simply a genitive one, just as any other construction 
involving two nouns in a genitive phrase.  It is also important to notice 
that the "nominalizer" suffix which forms agent nouns is not exactly a 
"nominalizer", since it attaches to nouns-- any kind of noun, in fact 
(including deverbal nouns, but also basic, concrete nouns as well).  Such 
situation can be reconstructed for Proto-Jê, and can be found in at least 
one other Macro-Jê family, Karajá.

A recent, detailed discussion of this topic can be found in Andrés 
Salanova's PhD thesis on Mebengokrê (a closely-related Northern Jê 
language), available at



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bernhard Waelchli" <bernhard.waelchli at ISW.UNIBE.CH>
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 4:36 AM
Subject: Re: Question on agentive nominalizations

> Dear Mark
> Since you emphasize the parallelism between agent and action nominals, it 
> might be worth looking into all the languages described as Sentential in 
> Koptjevskaja-Tamm’s (1993) well-known typological study on nominalizations 
> and her survey in WALS (2005), where the following languages are 
> classified as having sentential action nominal constructions ("its 
> arguments are signalled in the same way as verb-argument relations in 
> finite clauses"): Akhvakh Apurinã Archi Avar Barasano Basque Bezhta 
> Burushaski Canela-Krahô Chamalal Godoberi Ingush Kobon Korean Lak 
> Lavukaleve Lezgian Nambikuára Nepali Nivkh Pirahã Quechua (Imbabura) Tamil 
> Yagua Yupik (Sirenik). If there is a general parallelism between action 
> nominals and actor nominals in gross syntax (nobody has really tested this 
> cross-linguistically, as far as I know), these languages are expected to 
> exhibit sentential actor nominals.
> I am not sure whether I understand your question correctly, it would be 
> easier to decide if the question was formulated in the form of a question 
> or as a hypothetical universal. In case you are looking for languages 
> where nomina agentis can occur in constructions with similar syntax as 
> finite verb forms under certain conditions, here is a further example in 
> addition to Sanskrit.
> Livonian/Liv (Uralic, Finno-Ugric, Finnic), a moribund language of Latvia, 
> uses nomina agentis as evidential present (for example, to express 
> reported speech), which can occur both in independent clauses and in 
> clauses introduced by a complementizer. The use of cases is the same as 
> with finite verb forms.
> läp:shi piet:i:sti, ku so:rlist tul’:id un i’edijid ma’g lo’igi un 
> vut:a:jid vuoza: ul:z un pan’:it ko:ma si’z:el
> children.PART:PL cheat.PST:3PL, that island.people.PL:NOM come:NA:PL and 
> cut.NA:PL belly.NOM/ACC torn[ADV] and take.NA:PL meat.NOM/ACC out and 
> put.NA:PL turbot.NOM/ACC in
> 'The (Livonian) children were lied to that the Saaremaa-people would come 
> and cut their bellies and take the flesh out and put a turbot in' 
> (Kettunen 1938: LXX).
> (I am sorry for not being able to render the diacritics properly; Livonian 
> has a much more complicated phonology than the closely related Finnish 
> language. PART partitive, NA nomen agentis, nominative and accusative 
> happen to have the same form for a large number of nouns)
> However, the Livonian nomen agentis has also substituted the present 
> active participle in some functions (Kettunen 1938: LXVIII). So, if you 
> count this as an example of a participle it documents at least a form that 
> has grammaticalized from an action nominal.
> Anyway, the grammaticalization paths of actor nominals (Future in 
> Sanskrit, Evidential in Livonian) might deserve more attention in 
> grammaticalization studies. In Mordvin (Finno-Ugric) the 3rd person 
> singular present has the same form as (the short and older form of) the 
> actor nominal. According to Bubrix (1953: 98), the Mordvin second past 
> form (intermediate between habitual past and imperfect in function) 
> derives from the actor nominal plus the first past form of the verb 'to 
> be'. There must be many more cases where some actor nominal forms 
> grammaticalize to some finite verb constructions.
> Kettunen, Lauri. 1938. Livisches Wörterbuch mit grammatischer Einleitung. 
> Helsinki: Suomalais-ugrilainen seura.
> Bubrix, D. V. 1953. Istoricheskaja grammatika èrzjanskogo jazyka. Saransk: 
> Mordovskoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo.
> Best wishes,
> Bernhard Waelchli 

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