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CONLANG  January 2002, Week 5

CONLANG January 2002, Week 5

Subject:

Re: Ergative?

From:

Christophe Grandsire <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 29 Jan 2002 20:47:20 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (41 lines)

En réponse à The RipperDoc <[log in to unmask]>:

> Hello!
> A short, simple question: what's ergative/absolutive?
> I've seen it mentioned several times, and I've looked the words up in
> a
> lingustic glossary, but I seem to fail to understand it :-) Please
> give
> examples, I'm still very much of an amateur.
>
> /Martin
>

Examples are gonna be difficult, since I don't know any ergative language to
the point of being able to give examples. But the use of ergative and
absolutive is easy to understand, even without examples.

Languages like Latin (or even English in personal pronouns) mark differently
the subject of a verb vs. the object of the verb, whether the verb is
transitive (takes an object) or intransitive (takes no object). So English "I
run" and "I see you" have the same form of "I", although the first verb is
intransitive and the second is transitive. Those languages are called
nominative-accusative. The nominative is case of the subject, the accusative is
the case of the object.

Ergative-absolutive languages cut their functions differently. In those
languages, the subject of an intransitive verb takes the same form (case) as
the *object* of a transitive verb. This case is called absolutive. The subject
of a transitive verb is marked with a special case: the ergative.

So nominative languages like English and Latin mark the subject of an
intransitive verb in the same way as the subject of a transitive verb, while
ergative languages (like Basque) mark the subject of an intransitive verb in
the same way as the object of a transitive verb.

Christophe.

http://rainbow.conlang.free.fr

Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.

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