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CONLANG  March 1999, Week 3

CONLANG March 1999, Week 3

Subject:

Re: Nominative to ergative shift

From:

FFlores <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 20 Mar 1999 21:02:36 -0300

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Nik Taylor <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I don't think that it's likely to happen in a language with nominative
> *morphology*, but obviously it can happen in a language with nominate
> *syntax*, since if it couldn't, there'd be no ergative langs [snip]

Could you explain that? I'm not getting what you mean.
Is it a "nominative word order" (e.g. VSO) that can evolve
into an ergative system e.g. V-Abs-Erg?

>
> > The main weird thing about this is that the marked nouns
> > are "absolutive", which is usually *un*marked AFAIK in most
> > ergative languages. And it's a different mark according to
> > the person.
>
> How would person be involved? All nouns would cause third person
> inflection in the verb, and so would have what once was third person
> endings as prefixes - it would also have a number distinction, if the
> verb differentiated between third person singular and plural.

Yeah, most nouns would have the former third person inflection. In
my lang there would be a number distinction in the inflection, but
then it was simplified. I was thinking of the first and second pronouns
-- but I guess most times you would use a noun, and so you would take
the 3rd person inflection for every absolutive (pro)noun.


> However,
> AFAIK, there is no ergative lang where absolutive is marked and ergative
> isn't. It's unlikely to remain marked. Most likely, it would be lost.
>
> However, starting with no marking for nominative or accusative, as you
> had, here's a possible evolution: an INSTRUMENTAL preposition can become
> an instrumental case-marker, which can evolve into an ergative marker.
> IIRC, one of the Indic languages had a similar evolution.

That's a nice development. I may use that. Thanks!


--Pablo Flores

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 Alexander Graham Bell's Observation:
  When a body is immersed in water,
  the phone rings.

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