[Lingtyp] Applicative and preposition

Dryer, Matthew dryer at buffalo.edu
Thu Oct 18 02:57:02 UTC 2018

I think the range of possibilities attested is broader than Martin’s typology.

In the following sentence from Walman (Papua New Guinea), there is an applicative suffix on the verb, here coding external possession:













‘We cut the umbilical cords of the children.’ (where ‘navel’ + ‘trunk’ = ‘umbilical cord’)

Just as Simon Musgrave’s example (1d) has both an applicative or applicative-like suffix on the verb and a preposition marking the NP, this example from Walman has both an applicative suffix on the verb and the possessor is marked as a possessor with the genitive form of the 3pl pronoun. In other words, it is simultaneously internal and external possession. And like Simon Musgrave’s (1c), it is equally possible and in fact more common in Walman to have the possessive NP without genitive marking, bearing the form of a P.

What is different about this example, however, is that unlike Simon Musgrave’s example, the verb exhibits 3pl object agreement (in the suffix -y) with the possessor, making it more clearly simultaneous external and internal possession. This doesn’t seem to fit Martin’s typology. The genitive marking on the pronoun is similar to Martin’s adpositive type, except that we have the genitive form of a pronoun rather than an adposition. More seriously, however, the fact that there is object marking on the verb, means that the possessor is P-like in that respect, though not P-like in how it is marked on the NP, so that it is both an applicative in Martin’s sense and sort of adpositive.

But the general possibility of something being P-like in some respects and not P-like in other respects is quite common, so that the very notion of P-like is problematic, so any definition based on that notion is problematic.


From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org>> on behalf of Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de<mailto:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>>
Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 4:18 PM
To: "lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>" <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>>
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] Applicative and preposition

On 17.10.18 20:52, Peter Arkadiev wrote:
There are languages, most notably Northwest Caucasian and Kartvelian, where arguments introduced by applicatives are coded as ditransitive Rs rather than as monotransitive Ps. We can certainly invent a different comparative concept for this (e.g. "version", to adapt the traditional Caucasological term), but the similarities between "applicatives" and "versions" seem to be more important than differences, so it would be better to have a common comparative concept subsuming both

OK, so here's a proposal: "applicative" is a construction in which a new P-like object is added, and "versiative" is a construction in which a new (indirective-)R-like object is added (inspired by Russian "versija", or version). They are both subtypes of a more general concept, perhaps called "objectative".

One could also have another subtype, e.g. "adpositive", for a verbal marker that adds a new adpositionally marked argument. Then Simon Musgrave's original examples would be objectatives, both of the applicative and the adpositive sort.

These neologisms may sound strange, but it's actually just a historical accident that we don't have such terms in common use. The fact that "applicative" is a commonly used term does not mean that there must be a natural cross-linguistic phenomenon that corresponds to the term.


Peter Arkadiev, PhD
Institute of Slavic Studies
Russian Academy of Sciences
Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119991 Moscow
peterarkadiev at yandex.ru<mailto:peterarkadiev at yandex.ru>

17.10.2018, 18:07, "Martin Haspelmath" <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de><mailto:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>:
I think the answer to Adam's question is that a construction is an applicative only if the new object is coded like the P-argument of a basic transitive construction.

Thus, Simon Musgrave's example (1c) from Taba (based on Bowden 2001) is an (instrumental) applicative:

npun-ak kolay peda
kill-APPL snake machete

But when the instrument 'machete' has its instrumental preposition (ada peda 'with a machete'), it is not an applicative, from a typological perspective (= as a comparative concept).

There is no "official" definition of the (typological) term "applicative", of course, but it is my understanding that most people use the term in this way. The Wikipedia article reflects this by speaking about promotion to "(core) object": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applicative_voice.

(Maria Polinsky's WALS article is vague and speaks just about "increasing the number of object arguments by one", without making precise what is meant by "object", https://wals.info/chapter/109. But her examples and the discussion make it clear that she means objects coded like P-arguments.)

This does not mean, of course, that the description of Taba should not use the term "Applicative" for the suffix -ak in all cases – but this would be a language-specific descriptive category, somewhat like Dative is used in Russian-type languages also when the case in question is not used in its definitional function (recipient of 'give').


On 17.10.18 16:45, Adam James Ross Tallman wrote:

I know of some phenomena that is similar to this (I think) in Chácobo and other languages. But I have a question about terminology here. Why is it still an applicative if a (n oblique?) postposition is marked on the "promoted" argument? What are the criteria that identify it as "promoted" in this case (non-repeatability, position in clause etc...). Or is there some type of semantic criterion at work here?



On Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 9:36 AM Françoise Rose <francoise.rose at univ-lyon2.fr<mailto:francoise.rose at univ-lyon2.fr>> wrote:

Dear Simon,

Thanks for your query, it’s very interesting.

I just gave a talk at SWL8 on an applicative construction of Mojeño that is correlated with the presence of verbal classifiers that refer to a location. When such a verbal classifier is present, the “coreferential” NP can be expressed as an object rather than an oblique (i.e. it loses its preposition, as in the second example below). Interestingly, there is some variation. The preposition can be maintained in the locative phrase, even when the verbal classifier is present, but there is then no valency change (so the construction does not count as an applicative). Intransitive verbs take a 3rd person subject t-prefix, while transitive verbs take some semantically more specific prefixes for 3rd person when the object is third person also (as in the second example). So this case is not exactly what you were looking for, but the presence of three alternates here is interesting: the construction of example 3 could well be an intermediate step in the development of the applicative effect of classifiers.









'S/he ran to/in/from the woods.'







S/he runs inside the woods.









S/he ran inside the woods.

The slides from my presentation can be downloaded from SWL8 website.

Very best,

Françoise ROSE

Directrice de Recherches 2ème classe, CNRS

Laboratoire Dynamique Du Langage (CNRS/Université Lyon2)

16 avenue Berthelot

69007 Lyon


(33)4 72 72 64 63


De : Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org>] De la part de Simon Musgrave
Envoyé : mercredi 17 octobre 2018 07:16
À : LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:LINGTYP at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Objet : [Lingtyp] Applicative and preposition

Dear Lingtyp members,

I am posting this query on behalf of one of my PhD students. We will post a summary of responses in due course.

From existing studies of applicatives, only two Austronesian languages, Taba and Indonesian, have been documented to unexpectedly retain a preposition when an applicative affix is used to promote a previously non-core object to core.
Bowden, in his grammatical description of Taba (2001), states that it is possible for the same idea to be expressed using three possibilities. Firstly, that the third entity is introduced by a preposition, secondly that the applied object is marked by an applicative morpheme and thirdly that the applied object can be marked by an applicative morpheme and preposition, as the following examples show.

(1)a.    Ahmad    npun    kolay
    Ahmad    3SG=kill    snake
    ‘Ahmad killed a snake.’

b.    Ahmad    npun    kolay    ada    peda    PREPOSITION
    Ahmad    3SG=kill    snake    with    machete
    ‘Ahmad killed a snake with a machete.’

c.    Ahmad    npunak    kolay    peda    APPLICATIVE
    Ahmad    3SG=kill-APPL    snake    machete
    ‘Ahmad killed a snake with a machete.’

    d.    Ahmad    npunak    kolay    ada    peda    BOTH
    Ahmad    3SG=kill-APPL    snake    with    machete
    ‘Ahmad killed a snake with a machete.’    (2001:204)

Sometimes Indonesian clauses with applicative verbs suffixed with –kan retain the preposition directly following the verb when it is expected to have been lost according to conventional grammar rules, as shown in 2.

(2)a.    Yang    penting    saya    sangat    men-cinta-i    Sandy
    REL    important    1SG    very    meN.love.APPL    Sandy
    dan     meny-enang-kan    atas    semua    ke-jadi-an    itu
    and    meN-pity-APPL    on    all    event    that
    ‘What is important is that I love Sandy and regret everything that happened.’     (Musgrave 2001:156)

    b.    Kami    juga    sudah    mem-bicara-kan    dengan     pem-erintah     pusat
    2PL    also    already    meN-talk-APPL    with    government    central
    di     Jakarta    soal    rencana    men-ambah    beasiswa    Jerman
    in    Jakarta    matter    plan    meN-increase    scholarship    German
    untuk    Indonesia…
    for    Indonesia
    ‘We have also spoken with the central government in Jakarta about the plan to increase German scholarships to Indonesia.’      (Quasthoff & Gottwald 2012: indmix_565272)

Previous studies of Indonesian have noted the co-occurrence of applicatives and prepositions and have usually made passing comments often speculating that this feature is prevalent in non-standard Indonesian.

Our query is whether any list subscribers know of other languages which show this phenomenon and has anyone written about it?

Thanks in advance for any information which you can share!

Best, Simon

Bowden, John. 2001. Taba: Description of a South Halmahera language. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Musgrave, Simon. 2001. Non-subject arguments in Indonesian. The University of Melbourne. (PhD thesis).
Quasthoff, Uwe & Sebastian Gottwald. 2012. Leipzig corpus collection. (Ed.) Uwe Quasthoff & Gerhard Heyer. University of Leipzig. http://corpora2.informatik.uni-leipzig.de/.



Simon Musgrave


School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics

Monash University

VIC 3800


T: +61 3 9905 8234

E: simon.musgrave at monash.edu<mailto:name.surname at monash.edu>


Secretary, Australasian Association for the Digital Humanities (aaDH<http://aa-dh.org/>)

Official page<http://profiles.arts.monash.edu.au/simon-musgrave/>

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Adam J.R. Tallman
Investigador del Museo de Etnografía y Folklore, la Paz
PhD, UT Austin

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Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
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Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
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Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de<mailto:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10
D-07745 Jena
Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
IPF 141199
D-04081 Leipzig

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