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Andreas Johansson wrote.
>
>Reminds me ... in a thread on the case system on one of my langs* someone
>suggested that there might be languages that has one case of intransitive
>subject (S), and another that covers both transitive subject (A) and
>transitive object (P). That seems Truly Weird (TM) to me, so does anybody
>know of a natlang that DOES work that way?

I believe that in *Describing Morphosyntax*, it was said that there was
only one language known to have an S vs. A/P distinction, and that it
was unstable even in that one. Essentially, the reason for this is that
such a distinction is, as you said, weird.

Basically, there are two functions of constituent case marking. The
first is discriminatory; that is, it helps distinguish between different
cases where otherwise they would be ambiguous. Since S and A will never
appear in the same clause, and S and P will never appear in the same
clause, there is no need for a distinction there; meanwhile, since A and
P *will* appear in the same clause, that distinction *would* be useful.

The second function is identifying, or uniting elements with similar
functions. S and A have the common trait of agentivity--if a clause has
an agent, it will be one of those two. Ther also share the trait of
topicality, meaning they're the roles most likely to be the topic of the
sentence.

S and P, on the other hand, have the semantic similarity of state
change--if a clause has a patient, it will be either S or P. They are
also the who roles in which "new" participants appear most often.

So, S and A have certain traits in common, as well as S and P, meaning
it's likely that S will be lumped in with one of the two. A and P,
however, have not much at all in common, making them unlikely to be
lumped together.

I hope all this has been enlightening rather than confusing....

- Ian Maxwell
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