[Lingtyp] Syncretism between forms encoding source and agent

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de
Sat Jul 21 15:58:31 UTC 2018

On 07/21/2018 12:26 PM, David Gil wrote:
> Sebastian,
> 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.

Hi David,
sorry, I was being imprecise when I said "Sri Lanka Malay". I meant the
variety I had investigated (which I termed "Upcountry Sri Lanka Malay").
It is my impression that all Malays not living in the Southeast can be
said to share this variety.

I checked and I can also add that the use of instrumental /dering/ on
human actors is also attested in the non-Kirinda variety. However, both
instances I found involve the word /maathi/ 'to die' and have
/terrorist/ as the agent. /Maathi/ normally only takes an undergoer
argument (just like /die/). So if you want to add an actor, you have to
resort to some special marking, similar to /at the hands of/ in English.

I would conjecture that one would not find sentences like "John-INSTR
ate a mango", but I am not in a position to check this right now.

As for the retention, it makes perfect sense. It is clear that /dari/ is
the etymological source for today's /dering/. Some of its former uses
have been dropped, but the ones that remained have often done so because
there was a similar use of the corresponding form in Sinhala or Tamil.

Best wishes

> David
> 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
>> _______________________________________________
>> Lingtyp mailing list
>> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
>> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list