[Lingtyp] terminological question about intransitive verbs

Carl Whitehead carlrwhitehead at gmail.com
Wed May 12 14:02:31 UTC 2021

Isn't this another case of 'either/or' being an oversimplification? In the
sentences 'I moved to London' and 'He committed suicide' the subject is both
actor and undergoer. With the verb 'run' is the actor not affected? I
suggest that in many, if not most or all, cases there are elements of both
but to varying degrees. In a language like Menya (Papuan) that treats the
single argument of 'run' and 'die' the same but that of 'be sick' and 'like'
differently, is there not a recognition of a degree of 'doing something'
that is present in the one who dies but not in the one who is sick? The
single argument of verbs like 'commit suicide' and 'move' (and perhaps even
'run') there is a high degree of both actorhood and undergoerhood whereas
for the single argument of 'die' there is a low degree of actorhood but high
of undergoerhood, but nevertheless still a degree of each which languages
will code differently.




From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> On Behalf Of
Christian Lehmann
Sent: May 12, 2021 5:25 AM
To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Subject: [Lingtyp] terminological question about intransitive verbs


The only or direct actant of an intransitive verb may be its actor (run) or
its undergoer (die). This may be taken to be a feature of the verb's
valency. There are then two valency classes of intransitive verbs. I know of
the following terms for these:

active - inactive (Klimov)
agentive - non-agentive
unergative - unaccusative (Perlmutter)

All of these pairs have terminological or conceptual problems (which I can
name if desired). I have therefore been looking for better terms. I had
called them
actor-oriented - undergoer-oriented.
However, I need the term 'oriented' in verbal grammar in a different sense,
so I have to replace these. Currently, I call them
actor-holding - undergoer-holding
Not particularly elegant, are they?

Are there good terms on the linguistic market (of the past two centuries)
for what is meant by the above? Or failing this, brilliant neologisms?

Grateful for suggestions,


Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
Rudolfstr. 4
99092 Erfurt




christianw_lehmann at arcor.de <mailto:christianw_lehmann at arcor.de> 




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