applicative-marking and the comparative?

Laura Kertz kertz at LING.UCSD.EDU
Mon Dec 7 21:59:17 UTC 2009


I'm a member of a group at UCSD that is documenting Moro, an 
endangered language of the Kordofan family spoken in the Nuba 
Mountain region of Sudan.

We've identified a strategy for forming comparatives in Moro where an 
adjective or verb is marked as an applicative, increasing its valence 
to accommodate an additional nominal argument serving as the 
comparand. That extra argument otherwise looks like a benefactive, 
and in some cases we get ambiguity.

For example, a string like:
1) Kuku ate-APPLIC mango Nalo quickly.
can mean either 'Kuku ate the mango more quickly than Nalo' or 'Kuku 
ate the mango quickly for Nalo.'

With adjectives, context usually supports the comparative 
interpretation, but a benefactive reading is still possible. So a string like:
2) Kuku tall-APPLIC Nalo.
means 'Kuku is taller than Nalo', but in the right context could mean 
'Kuku is tall for Nalo.'

We know that it's common for a comparand to show case marking 
consistent with a benefactive, but we're not certain how common it is 
to also see applicative marking on the verb, or for languages where 
an adjective can bear an applicative, how often the applicative is 
used to form the comparative of the adjective.

We've turned up a possible comparable example in Makassarese, but 
maybe LINGTYP list members know of more?


Laura Kertz
The Moro Language Project

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