A-only agreement

Paul Hopper hopper at CMU.EDU
Sat Sep 19 13:12:01 UTC 2009

Dear Peter,

I have argued (references below) for "discourse split ergativity" (John
Verhaar's term) in traditional Malay narrative such that precisely the
distribution that you describe occurs in certain narrative environments.
Examples from texts:

di-ambil  oleh pawang sedikit batang pisang
3:ERG-take ERG magician some stalk  banana
"The elephant-magician took a piece of banana stalk"

di-ambil-nya surat itu, di-renong-nya, kemudian di-letokkan-nya
3:ERG-take-3AGT letter the, 3:ERG-stare-3AGT, then 3ERG-put-3AGT
"He took the letter, stared at it, and then put it down."

ku-bilang gajah itu
I:ERG-count elephant the
"I counted the elephants"

datang-lah se-orang orang muda
come-EVENT a (classf) man young
"a young man came"

So the transitive agent has the preposition oleh if a noun, or a special
verbal clitic if a pronoun, while absolutives (intransitive subjects and
objects) have no marker on the NP, and have independent forms (aku "I",
ia/dia "3rd sg.") if pronouns.

The verb has the prefix di- if the transitive agent is 3rd person, whether
noun or pronoun. Transitive agents that are pronouns have special forms
that are clitic to the verb (1/2 are proclitic, 3 is enclitic). S and O
show no agreement with the verb.



Paul J. Hopper, 1987 “Stability and change in VN/NV Alternating Languages:
A study in pragmatics and linguistic typology.” In M. Bertuccelli Papi and
J.Verscheuren, eds., The Pragmatic Perspective, 455-476. Amsterdam: John

Paul J. Hopper, 1983 “Ergative, passive, and active in Malay narrative
discourse.” In F. Klein-Andreu, ed., Discourse Perspectives on Syntax,
64-87. New York: Academic Press.

On Sat, September 19, 2009 07:30, peterarkadiev wrote:
> Dear typologists,
> do you know of languages where the verb would agree exclusively with the
> transitive agent (A), but neither with P nor with S? It seems to me that
> I have come across such systems, but I cannot recall any particular
> details. By the way, if per chance someone knows of agreement systems
> where both transitive A and P are cross-referenced but S is not, this
> example would be highly appreciated, too.
> Many thanks in advance!
> Peter Arkadiev
> --
> Эмоциональная почта наÑ
одится здесь:
> http://mail.yandex.ru/promo/new/emotions

Prof. Dr. Paul J. Hopper
Senior Fellow
Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Albertstr. 19
D-79104 Freiburg
Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Humanities
Department of English
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

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