> From: Marcus Smith [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> The Gray Wizard wrote:
> >Ergative languages
> >use the same case (absolutive) for S-function (subject of an intransitive
> >predicate) and P-function ("object" of a transitive
> construction) arguments
> >and a different case (ergative) for the A-function ("subject" of a
> >transitive predicate) argument.  This serves to discriminate the A- and
> >P-function arguments of transitive predicates.  This discrimination,
> >however, is based solely on the syntactic relations (S-,A-,and
> P-function)
> >of the arguments regardless of their semantic roles in any particular
> >utterance.
> Commonly schematicized as (modified for use in e-mail):
>    S
> s  o
>    O
> S refers to the subject of an intransitive sentence, where the verb
> requires volition and/or control.
> s refers to the subject of any transitive sentence.
> o refers to the object of any transitive sentence.
> O refers to the subject of an intranstive sentence, where the
> verb does not
> require volition or control.
> Accusative languages like English use one marker for S,s,O; and another
> marker for o. (nominative and accusative respectively)
> Ergative languages like Hindi use one marker for S,o,O; and
> another marker
> for s. (absolutive and ergative respectively)
> Active languages like Chickasaw use one marker for S,s; and
> another marker
> for o,O.  (Agent and patient respectively - though those are poor terms)
> Presented this way, it is the ergative languages that don't make much
> sense, active languages are perfectly sane, as are accusative
> languages. :-)

I can't agree with this conclusion despite the smiley face.  I think it only
appears less sane from the perspective of an accusative bias where the
subject relation (S,s,O) has primacy.  Ergative languages show preference
for the pivot relation (S,o,O).  See my previous post regarding syntactic
ergativity.   In this light, each is equally consistent and neither has a
better claim to sanity than the other.


David E. Bell
The Gray Wizard
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"Wisdom begins in wonder." - Socrates