Marcus Smith <[log in to unmask]> writes:

[paragraphs rearranged]

> The feature that I find distinctive of "active" and Fluid-S systems like
> that of Tokana is that active languages have a much smaller range of
> "cases". The subject of an active/volitional verb is marked the same as the
> subject of a transitive verb, and the subject of a stative/non-volitional
> verb is marked like the object of a transitive verb. Tokana uses further
> cases to draw even more distinctions that are not found in typical "active"
> languages. (I'm going to continue calling the marking in "active" languages
> "case" even though I believe they are something else.)

> I would not consider Tokana and Nur-Ellen active, because they make use of
> more cases and degrees of activity/volitionality/etc than do the typical
> active natlangs.

Hmmm, this is what I call an interesting view!  Add more subject cases
to an active language in order to distinguish degrees of volition, and
it is no longer an active language?  This sounds weird.  Did I
understand you correctly, Marcus: Nur-ellen would be a fine active
language if I threw out all those dative, comitative and instrumental
subjects, put them all in agentive and express degrees
of volition by adverbs instead?  Nur-ellen (and I think, Tokana as well)
uses the same pattern of case marking by degree of volition with
transitive verbs as with active intransitive verbs, so one can say that
the subjects of both classes of verbs are marked the same way.  It is
merely a subdivision of the "A-class" without regard to transitivity of
the verb.  Or does that not help either?

What, then, is an active language?  Marcus gives some examples:

> Take Mohawk for example. This language has two "cases" -- I call them "A"
> and "O" following the work of Mark Baker. "A" marks the subject of a
> transitive or an "active" intransitive verb (more on this below), and "O"
> marks the object of a transitive or subject of a "stative" instransitive
> verb. No matter what level volitionality and semantics, the subject of a
> transitive verb does not take anything other than an A-subject.

So a sentence like "The stone breaks the window" would mark "stone" as A
and "window" as O, no matter about animacy or volition.

>       (An
> exception is the verb for "want", which takes an O-subject and does not
> have any marking for the object. Wierd, but attested in other language
> families.)

OK, exceptions and irregular forms occur everywhere (except, perhaps, in
some auxlangs).  This is sort of a verb of emotion, hovering in the
"grey area" between active and stative.

> The distinction is not really based on active/stative, as seen by the fact
> that _royo't^e'_ 'he works' is marked as stative, and _rakowan^_ 'he is
> big' is marked as active.

Interesting!  After all, "to work" is a typical active verb, and "to be
big" is as stative as it can be!  These examples make the entire thing
stand on its head ;-)

>       The same pair shows that volition is also not the
> proper motivation. These are not isolated examples -- there are others. As
> a last attempt to get a proper generalization, we can look at the
> unaccusative/unergative distinction. This doesn't work either. The common
> assumption about Mohawk incorporation is that only themes can be
> incorporated into the verb, but there is no correlation between which verbs
> allow incorporation and which case their subject takes: _ta'kawis^'ne'_
> 'the glass fell' (A-subject, incorporated), _teyoa'shara'tsu_ 'The knife is
> dirty' (O-subject, incorporated). Also, if you take an intransitive verb
> and add an reflexive or semi-reflexive morpheme, the subject must be marked
> as "A" no matter what the non-reflexive form takes.

So it boils down to: the choice of A- or P-marking for the subject of a
particular intransitive verb is completely arbitrary (fixed, but
arbitrary)!?!  At least that is what I read out of it.  It doesn't
matter *why* some verbs use A-marking and others use P-marking: all
that's important is that both types of markings occur in intransitive
sentences ;-)  Personally, I find this definition a bit weak, and would
call that "split-S" instead.  To me, the term "active" seems to indicate
that the type of marking is determined by the active-ness of the verb.

So why is it that Tokana and Nur-ellen are not active?

Is it

1) the fact that they subdivide "A"-subjects according to the degree of
   (which is done the same way in transitive and A-marking intransitive
sentences,    at least in Nur-ellen),

2) the fact that they use noun cases rather than verb agreement,

3) the fact that in these languages, the division between A-marking and
   intransitive verbs is not entirely arbitrary, but by active-ness of
the verb?

If 1) is the reason, I must ask whether it really matters that much that
such a subdivision exists; if it is 2), I must say that this should not
hurt either; but if it is 3), I must say that it is outright weird to
exclude exactly those languages which deserve being called "active"

> Chickasaw shows that active marking is not the same as case marking.

It apparently also shows what we have already seen in Mohawk - that
active marking has little to do with whether a verb is actually active
or not: I remember an earlier posting from Marcus in which he told us
that numerals in Ch. are active verbs!  Well, what I would expect from
an active language that treats numerals as verbs is that they are
stative.  But apparently, I expect way too much of an active language.

> Agreement on the verb follows an active pattern (as described above) with
> the addition of "dative" marking for indirect objects and the subject of
> experience verbs. (This is arguable. It is also possible to conclude that
> there is only active and stative case, and that the "dative" marking is
> only stative case combined with a dative applicative: dative and stative
> never co-occur, and the "allomorphy" which suggests dative should be a
> different agreement class/case also occurs when the verb is negated.)
> Arguments of the verb (both nouns and pronouns) are case marked according
> to an accusative pattern. If active marking is case like in Tokana or
> Georgian, how could it co-occur with nominative-accusative marking?

Well, case inflection is *one* way to do active marking; another way to
do it is verb agreement, and the latter may of course go together with
case marking of a different kind (examples: nom-acc in Chickasaw;
erg-abs in Amman-iar).

J Matthew Pearson <[log in to unmask]> comments on it:

> OK, I think I see what you're getting at.  Tokana is definitely not active in
> the
> Chickasaw/Mohawk sense, I agree.

Sure, there are vast differnces.  To wit:


case marking on nouns       agreement marking on the verb

distinction of degrees      no distinction of degrees
of volition in active       of volition in active
and transitive verbs        and transitive verbs
by case marking             by agreement marking

A/P-distinction by          A/P-distinction largely arbitrary ;-)
semantics of the verb

>       (There are natlang precedents for a
> Tokana-like
> system, though.  I guess it's basically just 'quirky case' gone awry...)

There are natlang precedents?  Interesting.  Which ones?

> Another remark:  Earlier I might have given the impression that Tokana
> case-marking is entirely driven by semantic notions like volitionality.  This is
> not the case.  Really, the only part of the system that's sensitive to
> volitionality is the alternation between nominative and ablative/instrumental
> case-marking for actor participants.  (Nominative 'case' in Tokana is perhaps
> best
> thought of as a conflation of true case with definiteness and volitionality.)

Same as in Nur-ellen; all those cases reflecting different degrees of
volition are just subdivisions of what would be marked as "A" in a
"classical" active language.
Treat agentive, comitative, dative, and instrumental subjects as
different ways to mark "A"s, roughly equivalent to the adverbs
"volitionally", "blissfully", "accidentally" and "due to external
cause"/"involuntarily". The rest of the Nur-ellen case system has no
business with volition.

On the other hand, it is clear that Tokana and Nur-ellen are not active
merely because they distinguish degrees of volition.

> Other aspects of the system are much less fluid:  For example, unaccusative-type
> motion verbs (e.g., "go", "arrive", "leave", "fall", "rise", "return", etc.)
> invariably take absolutive case, regardless of whether they denote volitional or
> non-volitional actions.

Some of these are treated as active verbs in Nur-ellen, others as
stative; some ar fluid.

Well, it is not really important to me whether Nur-ellen counts as
active or not; I am just confused by the way different people use the
same term for different things, and no longer know what to call the
system of my language ;-/

P.S. I'll be off for a few days and thus won't reply in the meantime;
I'll catch up with the thread and comment on it when I am back home.