passive/causative homonymy

Françoise Rose Francoise.Rose at UNIV-LYON2.FR
Mon Sep 19 09:25:14 UTC 2011

Dear Dr Schulze,

Mojeño Trinitario, an Arawak language spoken in Bolivia, also shows this polyfunctionality.

The prefix ko- is used for middle or passive (with mediopassive, impersonal, autocausative or anticausative  functions), only on transitive verbs (which then lose their active suffix –ko).

(1)           to             vaka       t-ko-y(u)wa                                                     verb yuwa-ko “to chop”

             art.nh        meat        3-mid-chop 

             ‘The meat is chopped. ’

The prefix ko- is also used on verbs, in the same position, to express direct causation. It can be used on both active intransitive and transitive verbs, and the active suffix –ko (here its allomorph –‘) is maintained.

(2)           p-k-em-'-a                                            to                    yuku

          2sg-cau-go.out(fire)-act-irr             art.nh           fire

          Put out the fire!


If I remember well, Denis Creissels has told me this polyfunctionality was also found in Korean, Japonese and Hungarian. Denis has a nice explanation for this, at least in Hungarian.

I could give you more examples if you need.


Françoise ROSE

Dynamique Du Langage (CNRS, Université Lumière Lyon 2)

Institut des Sciences de l'Homme

14 avenue Berthelot

69363 Lyon Cedex 07


(33) 4 72 72 64 63






De : Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] De la part de Wolfgang Schulze
Envoyé : vendredi 16 septembre 2011 13:25
Objet : passive/causative homonymy


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                hûlha-bu-fi
that         day               1SG-GEN     eight      horse:NOM      steal-PASS-PFV:CNV
'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.  cap-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                                                       

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D-80539 München                                                                                                                 

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