A-only agreement

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Sat Sep 19 14:14:00 UTC 2009

Dear all,

I think it's only fair to point out that Paul's analysis of the Malay 
sentences below as involving verbal agreement with a transitive agent is 
dependent on the assumption that the prefix di- bears 3rd person 
features -- an assumption that many have questioned (even in those 
somewhat idealized varieties of Malay in which the prefix di- is used 
only with 3rd person agents).


> 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
> ----------------------------
> 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
> Benjamins.
> 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 находится здесь:
>> http://mail.yandex.ru/promo/new/emotions

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 eva.mpg.de
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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