passive/causative homonymy

Geoffrey Haig geoffrey.haig at UNI-BAMBERG.DE
Fri Sep 16 14:13:34 UTC 2011

Dear Wolfgang,

It may be worth looking a little more closely the semantics of the 
‘causatives’ you are investigating. Some causatives are open to a ‘let, 
allow’ interpretation, while others only permit the cause/coercion 
interpretation. In the former case, “causers” can end up looking rather 
‘unagentive’, and the distance to a passive may not be as far as it 
would appear at first glance.

  Turkish is a case in point: the causative morpheme (with various 
allomorphs, some irregular) is open to both ‘cause’, but also to ‘let 
happen, be unable to prevent’ readings. Thus the causative verb 
kaç-ır-mak (go away-caus-inf) can mean both ‘kidnap, abduct (a person)’, 
or ‘miss (an opportunity, a train etc.)’.

The following example (from Göksel and Kerslake’s grammar (p.147), I 
have added glosses) is quite similar semantically to your passive 
example with the ‘bandits’:

Sule el-i-ni makina-ya kap-tır-dı
Shule hand-poss3s-acc maschine-dat catch-caus-pst(3s)

'Shule got her hand caught in the machine'

  Of course here, the possessor of the affected entity here winds up as 
the subject, while in your passive example it’s a genitive attribute. 
But the semantic overlaps seem worthy of following up.

Best wishes

Am 16.09.2011 13:24, schrieb Wolfgang Schulze:
> 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:
> Passive:
> /tere         inenggi         mi-ni            jakûn     morin     
>            hûlha-*bu*-fi/
> that         day               1SG-GEN     eight      horse:NOM      
> steal-*PASS*-PFV:CNV
> 'On that day my eight horses were stolen (by bandits).'
> Causative:
> /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,
> Wolfgang
> -- 
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> *Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze *
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> Institut für Allgemeine & Typologische Sprachwissenschaft
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