[Lingtyp] Syncretism between forms encoding source and agent

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Sat Jul 21 10:26:14 UTC 2018


I was careful in my response to specify that I was talking abut the 
Kirinda dialect of Sri Lankan Malay, because, in my notes, I do see that 
you had once provided me with different data from the Kandy dialect.

My citation of agent-marking /dari/ in Kirinda (where it actually 
surfaces as a postposition /(de)ring/) is based on my own fieldwork 
there, subsequently corroborated by Peter Slomanson, who has been 
working there for years.

Since the use of /dari/ to mark agents is widespread in those eastern 
Malay varieties on which Sri Lankan Malay is based, I would suspect that 
— contrary to your suggestion — its occurrence in Kirinda is a 
retention, and its (near-)loss in Kandy an innovation.


On 21/07/2018 13:17, Sebastian Nordhoff wrote:
> On 07/21/2018 11:47 AM, David Gil wrote:
>> More specifically, the use of /dari/ to mark agents is characteristic of
>> Eastern contact varieties of Malay; I have heard it in, among other
>> places, Papua, Halmahera, Ambon, Maluku Tenggara and Timor.  And it is
>> also attested in the Kirinda subdialect of Sri Lankan Malay.
> The use of the ablative for agents in Sri Lanka Malay is normally
> restricted to "institutional agents", like government, the police, a
> board etc. This is a calque from the same use of the ablative in
> Sinhala. I can provide references if required.
> (It might be the case that in Kirinda, this has generalized further.)
> Interestingly, the set of agents which take ablative marking in
> Sinhalese and Sri Lanka Malay (institutional actors) seems to be
> identical to the set where British English permits plural agreement
> ("The government have ...") and where Dutch uses feminine pronouns even
> for neuter referents ("Het kabinet heeft haar kabinetsplannen
> gepresenteerd", 'The(neuter) cabinet presented HER plans').
> So [±institutional actor] is signaled by strategies involving case,
> number, and gender in four different languages.
> I have always wondered how a historically comparatively recent concept
> like [institutional] can grammaticalize at all. I would not expect there
> to be any cognitive disposition for this.
> Best wishes
> Sebastian
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David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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