workshop 'Subject and transitivity in Indo-European and beyond: A diachronic typological perspective' at SLE-43, Vilnius, September 2010

Kulikov, L.I. L.Kulikov at HUM.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Sun Oct 18 12:51:18 UTC 2009


Dear colleagues,
Please be so kind as to distrubute this call for papers among interested colleagues and potential participants.

Thanks a lot!

Yours sincerely,

Leonid Kulikov
Ilya Seržant

Workshop “Subject and transitivity in Indo-European and beyond: A diachronic typological perspective”
at the 43rd annual Meeting of Societas Linguistica Europaea Vilnius, 2–5 September 2010 (

Leonid Kulikov (Leiden University) and Ilya Seržant (University of Bergen) 
Contact emails: L.Kulikov at , ilja.serzants at

The workshop proposal (including a preliminary list of participants and the topics of their papers) should be submitted to the SLE organizers before November 15, 2009. 
Therefore we ask potential participants to send us the provisional titles of their presentations (with a draft abstract) no later than November 7. 
Abstracts should be submitted by the end of December. 

Workshop description


	The recent decades are marked with a considerable progress in the study of grammatical relations (subject, object) and their relationships with transitivity (see, among others, Hopper & Thompson 1980; Kittilä 2002; Næss 2007). Impressive results are achieved both in the study of the notion of prototypical transitive and intransitive clauses, with canonical subject and object marking (see, in particular, Aikhenvald et al. 2001; Bhaskararao & Subbarao 2004), and in the research of intermediary, ‘quasi-transitive’ (‘quasi-intransitive’) types, often correlating with non-canonical encoding of the core relations (non-nominative subjects etc.). Meticulous research of subject properties has discovered an amazing variety of criteria of subjecthood that can be used as a powerful tool for detecting (non-canonical) subjects and, virtually, to arrive at a more adequate definition of subject. 
	Indo-European languages are particularly notorious for their diversity of non-canonical subject marking, ranking from nominative (standard), to dative, genitive, accusative etc., as in Icelandic (1) (see, among others, Barđdal 2001), Lithuanian (2a), Polish (Holvoet 1991), or Bengali (Onishi 2001): 

(1)	Icelandic
	Mér  	likar        	þessi 	tilgáta
	I:DAT	like:PRES:3SG 	this  	hypothesis
	‘I like this hypothesis.’

(2)	Lithuanian 
a.	Man  	uo lietaus    	sušalo    		rankos
    	I:DAT	because of rain  freeze:PAST:3SG 	hand:NOM.PL
	My hands became frozen because of rain.' 

While the synchronic study of subject and transitivity in Indo-European languages (and beyond) has furnished detailed descriptions of syntactic patterns, inventories of features and types and valuable cross-linguistic observations, little attention was paid to the diachronic aspects of the phenomena in question. We cannot yet explain why and how the non-canonical subject marking emerges and disappears, how does it correlate with changes in the system of transitivity types. Correlations between different transitivity types and the status of the syntactic arguments (in particular, their subject/object properties) can be illustrated with the Lithuanian example in (2b). In contrast with (2a), it instantiates a higher degree of control of the subject over the situation, and the canonical subject marking is in correlation with the whole construction becoming more transitive as compared to (2a) (Seržant, forthc.): 

(2) 	Lithuanian 
b.	(Kol ėjau į universitetą,)    	sušalau              	rankas, 
    	(While I was going to university) 	freeze:PAST:1SG  	hand:ACC.PL
	   (nes visą kelią spaudžiau sniegą rankose.) 
	   (because all the way I pressed snow in the hands)
	‘While I was going to the university, I froze up my hands, because all the way I pressed snow in the hands.’

	Thus, of particular interest are such constructions where we observe increase of transitivity correlating with the increase of subject (and object) properties of the core argument(s). This is the case with the North Russian ‘possessive perfect’ constructions, as in (3), which originates in possessive construction of the mihi-est type with the passive participle (cf. Kuteva & Heine 2004), and attests acquiring subject properties by the oblique ‘possessor’ noun (Timberlake 1976): 

(3) 	U nego   	korov-a	   / 	korov-u		podojen-o
	at he:GEN  	cow-NOM  / 	cow-ACC   	milk:PART.PERF.PASS-SG.N
	‘He has milked the cow.’

	Another issue relevant for a diachronic typological study of subject and transitivity is the evolution of alignment systems. The developments in the system of subject-marking and expansion of non-canonical subjects, typically accompanied by rearrangements of transitivity types, may open the way to dramatic changes in the type of alignment – for instance, from nominative-accusative to ergative-absolutive (as in Indo-Iranian), or from ergative-absolutive to nominative-accusative (as it was, presumably, the case in Proto-Indo-European, according to some hypotheses; cf. Bauer 2001 and Bavant 2008, among others). The relationships between these syntactic phenomenon are not yet sufficiently studied. In particular, our knowledge of the subject and transitivity features of the Indo-European proto-language is still quite limited (see Barðdal & Eythórsson 2009). 
	Indo-European languages, with their well-documented history and long tradition of historical and comparative research, offer a particularly rich opportunity for a diachronic typological study of the above-listed issues (see Barđdal 2001 on Icelandic). One of the first research projects concentrating on the diachronic aspects of these phenomena started in 2008 in Bergen, under the general guidance of J. Barđdal (see 
	The idea of our workshop is to bring together scholars interested in comparative research on subject and transitivity in Indo-European and to open up new horizons in the study of these phenomena, paying special attention to its diachronic aspects. While the workshop concentrates mainly on evidence from Indo-European, papers on non-Indo-European languages which could be relevant for a diachronic typological study of the issues in question will also be welcome.

The issues to be addressed include, among others: 
•	theoretical and descriptive aspects of a study of subject and transitivity: 
	–	criteria for subjecthood and subject properties in Indo-European 
	–	features of transitivity and transitivity types in Indo-European; how to define transitivity in constructions with non-canonical subjects and/or objects?
•	mechanisms of the rise or disappearance of non-canonical subject-marking
•	evolution of transitivity and changes in the inventory of transitivity types in the history of Indo-European
•	relationships between subject marking and transitivity types: evolution of subject-marking with different semantic classes of verbs 
•	the main evolutionary types (from the point of view of subject marking and transitivity types) attested for Indo-European
•	subject and changes in the type of alignment: the emergence of ergativity out of constructions with non-canonical subject
•	voice, valency-changing categories and subject marking: their relationships in a diachronic perspective

Leonid Kulikov		Ilya Seržant
Leiden University	University of Bergen


Aikhenvald. A.Y. et al. (eds) 2001. Non-canonical marking of subjects and objects. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 
Barðdal, J. 2001. Case in Icelandic: A Synchronic, Diachronic and Comparative Approach. Lund: Dept. of Scandinavian Languages, Lund University.
Barðdal, J. & Eythórsson, Th. 2009. The Origin of the Oblique Subject Construction: An Indo-European Comparison. In: V. Bubeník et al. (eds), Grammatical Change in Indo-European Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 179–193.
Bauer, B. 2001. Archaic syntax in Indo-European: the spread of transitivity in Latin and French. Berlin: Mouton.
Bavant, M. 2008. Proto-Indo-European ergativity... still to be discussed. Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics 44/4: 433-447.
Bhaskararao, P. & Subbarao, K. V. (eds) 2004. Non-nominative Subjects. 2 vols. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Holvoet, A. 1991. Transitivity and clause structure in Polish: a study in case marking. Warszawa: Slawistyczny Ośrodek Wydawniczy. 
Holvoet, A. 2009: Difuziniai subjektai ir objektai. In: A. Holvoet & R. Mikulskas (eds), Gramatinių funkcijų prigimtis ir raiška. Vilnius: Vilniaus universitetas & Asociacija „Academia Salensis“, 37-68. 
Hopper, P. & Thompson, S. 1980. Transitivity in Grammar and Discourse. Language 56/2: 251-299.
Kittilä, S. 2002. Transitivity: toward a comprehensive typology. Åbo: Åbo Akademiska Tryckeri. 
Kuteva, T. & Heine, B. 2004. On the possessive perfect in North Russian. Word 55: 37-71.
Næss, Å. 2007. Prototypical transitivity. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Onishi, M. 2001. Non-canonically marked A/S in Bengali. In: A.Y. Aikhenvald et al. (eds), Non-canonical marking of subjects and objects. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 113-147.
Seržant, I. A. forthc. Lability across oblique subject predicates in Baltic. In: L. Kulikov & N. Lavidas (eds), Typology of labile verbs: Focus on diachrony.
Timberlake, A. 1976. Subject properties in the North Russian Passive. In: Ch. N. Li (ed.), Subject and Topic. New York: Academic Press, 545-594.

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