> From: Doug Ball
> Daniel wrote:
> > Teoh wrote:
> >
> >> Which natlangs are active? Are there any references on the Net
> on those?
> >> I'd like to see a "real", active natlang in action :-)
> >
> > Well, the ones I've looked at are Guaraní from SAmerica; The Caucasian
> > langs Georgian and Ts'ova-Tush; Lakhota, Mohawk, Chickasaw and Eastern
> > and Central Pomo from North America and the Austronesian lang Acehnese.
> >
> I was wondering if there is a difference between the terms ergative and
> active.  I thought that ergative referred to the following pattern:

[examples snipped]

Doug, if you limit the discussion to morphological ergativity, you have
pretty much summed up the difference in your examples.  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. This patterning effectively follows a context-free syntactic
template.  Active languages, however, mark the arguments of a predicate
according to the semantic role (agent, patient, experiencer, et. al.) they
play and are thus context-sensitive.

An often overlooked aspect of many ergative languages is that they are very
often syntactically as well as morphologically ergative.  While the former
deals with the discriminatory application of structural case roles to the
core arguments of a predicate within a simple clause and is thus
"intraclausal", the latter deals with ergatively motivated syntactic
constraints on clause combination and on the omission of coreferential
constituents in clause combinations and is thus "interclausal".  Languages
which exhibit syntactic ergativity specify rules of coordination,
relativization, and subordination that treat S- and P-function arguments in
the same way and A-function arguments differently. This syntactic
equivalence of S- and P-function arguments in clause linking operations is
often referred to as the pivot-relation.  The pivot relation (S=P) is the
counterpart of the subject relation (S=A) in nominative/accusative
languages.  Thus,

Syntactically accusative:

John kissed Mary and left. (John kissed Mary and he left.)
John[A] kissed Mary[P] and (he[S]) left.

Allows the coordination and omission of coreferential NP (he) because they
participate in the subject relation.

Syntactically ergative:

John kissed Mary and left. (John kissed Mary and she left)
John[A] kissed Mary[P] and (she[S]) left.

Allows the coordination and omission of coreferential NP (she) because they
participate in the pivot relation.

Syntactically ergative languages make much use of antipassive voice
transformations which recast a transitive clause into a derived intransitive
in which the underlying A-function argument becomes the S-function argument
in order to shift the syntactic relations of the arguments to meet the pivot
constraints of clause combination.  Thus,

John kissed-antip Mary and left (John kissed Mary and he left)
John[S] kissed-antip Mary[Obl] and (he[S]) left.

Is there an active analog to this kind of constraint?  Do any active
languages (nat- or con-) impose constraints on clause combination based on
relations of semantic roles?  Anyone!


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