David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Tue Jun 24 19:04:38 UTC 2008

So far the discussion has centered around European languages in which 
crack cannot be used transitively.  What about non-European languages 
and/or languages in which it can be so used?

In Indonesian it seems as though "retak" ('crack') can be used 
transitively, either bare, or with an applicative/transitivizing 
enclitic/suffix.  I did a quick Google for "meratakkan" (Standard 
Indonesian) and "retakin" (Jakarta Indonesian) and found plenty of 
examples with an agentive causative interpretation in which "retak" was 
followed by the cracked object.  Here's an (albeit non-agentive) 
newspaper example, recalling the shaky lead-up to the 2005 ALT meeting 
in Padang:

"Gempa 6,7 Scala Richter yang mengguncang Padang pada 10 April 2005 yang 
bersumber dari Kepulauan Mentawai *meretakkan* 15 tiang ini ..."

'The 6.7 Richter Scale earthquake which shook Padang on the 10th of 
April 2005 and which originated in the Mentawai archipelago cracked 15 
house pillars ...'


PS Lots of the Indonesian examples that came up in the search involved 
metaphorical usages of 'crack', mostly involving things like 'code'.  
Which leads me to wonder:  In languages such as German in which father 
can't crack the vase, can he crack the code?  (Hebrew, which is like 
German in this respect, uses a different verb for cracking codes, the 
same verb used for cracking and breaking open things like nuts, and it 
can behave transitively for both nuts and codes.)

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at

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