passive/causative homonymy

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Fri Sep 16 11:24:34 UTC 2011

Dear friends,
I'm currently working on instances of passive/causative homonymy. Let me 
just give two examples from Manchu (Tungus) to illustrate the problem:

/tere         inenggi         mi-ni            jakûn     morin     
that         day               1SG-GEN     eight      horse:NOM      
'On that day my eight horses were stolen (by bandits).'

/bi                morin    be        ule-*bu*-me/
1SG:NOM   horse    ACC     drink-*CAUS*-IPFV:CNV
'I let the horse drink (water).'

For /-bu-/ marking the causative we might think of the verb /bu-/ 'give' 
as a potential source of grammaticalization. However, it is far from 
being clear whether the same /-bu-/ is present in the passive form.  
Usually, /-bu-/ is said to represent a homonymous pair, not an instance 
of polysemy. However note that in some other Tungus languages, the 
formal merger of passive and causative may show up, too (apart from 
another, specialized passive morpheme). Similar instances occur in 
Korean (e.g.  c/ap-hita/ 'let/have catch, be caught', /mul-lita/ 
'have/let bite, be bitten' etc.). Again, grammars normally speak of 
secondary homonymy due to specific sound processes. Nevertheless, I'm 
not sure whether the parallel between (Southern) Tungus and Korean is 
mere coincidence (given the fact that the languages at issue are spoken 
in relative neighborhood). However, before trying to provide an 
explanation based on the assumption of the presence of polysemy (that 
would be rather complex in nature - I do not want to bother you with 
this here), I would be eager to learn whether there are other languages 
that exhibit the same type of homonymy, that is a single (!) strategy 
(morphological or analytic) to encode passives and causatives. Likewise, 
I'm totally ignorant whether this phenomenon has already been discussed 
in the literature (my fault, I admit!). So, I would be extremely 
thankful, if you could tell me about helpful references and whether 
there are other languages  that show analogous strategies. Maybe 
Estonian is another candidate,  cf. /soovi-ta /'be wished' ~ '*have 
something being wished' ~ '*have s.o. wish' > 'recommend', but I'm not 
sure whether I have got these data right.

Very best wishes,



*Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze *


Institut für Allgemeine & Typologische Sprachwissenschaft

Dept. II / F 13

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Ludwigstraße 25

D-80539 München

Tel.: 0049-(0)89-2180-2486 (Secretary)

0049-(0)89-2180-5343 (Office)

Fax:  0049-(0)89-2180-5345

Email: W.Schulze at 
<mailto:W.Schulze at>/// Wolfgang.Schulze at 
<mailto:Wolfgang.Schulze at>


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