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On Jan 19, 2007, at 2:13 PM, Terrence Donnelly wrote:
> What I'd like to do is convert Thisbo to an inflected
> ergative/absolute language, which I'm finding very
> hard to wrap my head around. Below is what I've got so
> far.
> Can anyone see any obvious flaws in this plan?  Am I
> painting myself in a corner here?

It looks quite plausible and cool to me; you seem to have wrapped  
your head around it just fine.

>
> The Thisbo verb focuses on states and events, and has
> as the
> subject of the verb the entity in the sentence that
> experiences the verb. There is no distinction between
> transitive and intransitive verbs, since all verbs
> have
> only a subject.

But you do show verbs with a subject and an object (either with the  
subject in the absolutive and the object in the genitive, or the  
subject in the ergative and the object in the absolutive).

By "no distinction" do you mean that there is no morphological  
distinction?

>
> Noun cases
>
> Absolutive - for the subject of the verb; uses the
> simple
> verbal stem, except in the plural.

Was "verbal stem" a typo (i.e. did you mean "nominal stem")?

>
> Ergative - for the agent of the verb, what we would
> call
> the "subject" of a transitive verb; can only be used
> with
> animates.
>
> Genitive
> Dative
> Locative
> Instrumental
>
>
> Verb forms
>
> The only forms I've got so far are the Active and
> Inchoative
> aspects. Thisbo will have at least present, future and
> past
> versions of each.  The verb also inflects for number
> and
> person.

You might want to call the active something other than "active",  
since that usually refers to a voice (opposed to passive, middle,  
antipassive, etc.). I'm not sure what would be a better label,  
though. (If your conlang doesn't make use of different voices, this  
probably isn't a problem anyway.)

>
> Some Sentences (I don't have any vocabulary, yet, so
> this
> will be in pseudo-Thisbo)
>
> man-ABS go-PRES.ACT.3sg
> The man goes
>
> market-DAT man-ABS go-PRES.ACT.3sg
> The man goes to the market.
>
> man-ABS eat-PRES.ACT.3sg
> The man eats/is eating
>
> bread-GEN man-ABS eat-PRES.ACT.3sg
> The man eats bread.
>
> bread-GEN eat-PRES.ACT.1sg
> I eat bread.

I like how "eat" is intransitive, rendering what we normally think of  
as its object in the genitive (kind of similar to "partake" in  
English). Is that more or less arbitrary, or does "eat" fit in a  
class of verbs that all act like that?

>
> man-ABS seated-PRES.ACT.3rd
> The man is seated
>
> man-ABS seated-PRES.INC.3rd
> The man sits.
>
> bird-ABS red-PRES.ACT.3rd
> The bird is red.
>
> door-ABS opened-PRES.ACT.3rd
> The door is open(ed).
>
> door-ABS opened-PRES.INC.3rd
> The door opens
>
> man-ERG door-ABS opened-PRES.INC.3rd
> The man opens the door.
> (The "subject" is an animate agent)
>
> wind-LOC door-ABS opened-PRES.INC.3rd
> The wind opens the door.
> (The "subject" is an impersonal force)

If someone just says "the door opens" without specifying an ergative  
or locative argument, does it necessarily mean that the door opened  
on its own -- or can it instead be interpreted as omitting an  
implicit agent?

>
> key-INS door-ABS opened-PRES.INC.3rd
> The key opens the door.
> (The "subject" is the means of accomplishing the
> state)
>
> Verbs of state always describe the completed state.
> When the Inchoative is used with verbs of quality or
> state, it means "to become X".  When used with verbs
> of action, it means "to begin to X".
>
> Does this plan seem sustainable for a whole language?

I don't see why not!