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Date:    Tue, 17 Feb 2004 20:21:59 -0000
From:    Jonathan Knibb <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: THEORY: unergative

> Sorry for the blatantly non-conlang-related post,

Actually, it has long been the custom on this list that any discussion
of some linguistic phenomenon in a natural language is fully relevant
to the design principles of constructed ones.

> but I came across the word
> "unergative" today and, not being a linguist or knowing any personally,
> couldn't find out what it meant.  (A Google search brought up one or two
> definitions that were couched in some sort of syntactic algebra I couldn't
> decode :( )

[See below]

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Date:    Tue, 17 Feb 2004 14:52:10 -0600
From:    Nik Taylor <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: THEORY: unergative

Jonathan Knibb wrote:
> >
> > Sorry for the blatantly non-conlang-related post, but I came across the word
> > "unergative" today and, not being a linguist or knowing any personally,
> > couldn't find out what it meant.
>
> Unergative and unaccusative refer to intransitive verbs.  An unergative
> verb is one whose single argument is a patient, like "burn", while an
> unaccusative verb is one whose argument is agentive, like "speak"

Actually, you have it precisely backwards.  'Unaccusatives' are
intransitives which, in most derivational theories of grammar,
have underlying objects, but no subjects, like 'appear'.  In
GB/PP/Minimalism that argument gets raised to get its case checked,
and surfaces as the subject in spite of itself.  They also have a
number of properties of objects of transitive verbs.  Unergative
verbs, in contrast, have underlying subjects but no object, and tend
to behave like subjects of transitive clauses, like 'dance'.  Cf:

   'There appeared several men in the room'
   *'There danced several men in the room'

In Split-S languages, these two classes of intransitives are given
overt realization.

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Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
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