On Tue, 29 Jan 2019 at 23:58, Reuben Staley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hello friends,
> In one of our recent chats about our collaborative language Sajem Tan, a
> question concerning our syntax and how we should categorise specific
> features came up. We have elected to search for guidance from those with
> more experience. I will now attempt to describe our problem.
> The following is a standard Sajem Tan sentence, in OVS structure:
> (1) "nëcüm kygykum viţitâ"
>      nëcüm kygyk -šo  viţit -â
>      grain eat   CONT bird  PL
>      "birds are eating grain"
> In the passive voice, however, the subject is placed before the verb:
> (2) "vazöt dëgemfêsun dac"
>      vazöt dëgem  -fê -sun dec
>      cat   choose PFV PASS IND.REC
>      "the cat was chosen"
> There is, however, one more structure to go over, the one that has
> caused this intention in the first place:
> (3) "kemönmon sê daţnycfê"
>      kemön -mon     sê       daţnyc    -fê
>      deer  group.of 1s.ANIM  encounter PFV
>      "I encounter a group of deer"
> Notice how this uses the same subject-before-verb pattern of (2). In
> fact, if we were to add another arguement to (2), it would follow the
> OSV pattern established by (3).
> Back on topic, why does the subject come before the verb in (3) anyway?
> "Encountering" something surely does not constitute a passive verb.

Surely not, as verbs are not inherently passive or active; they may
however, be inherently non-agentive.

> So far, we have referred to verbs like daţnyc as "experiencer verbs"
> although the concept seems to be unrelated to how other sources describe
> experiencers. What differentiates an experiencer verb in Sajem Tan from
> a regular verb is that the subject of an experiencer verb takes no
> direct part in the action described while still being a the subject for
> the clause. Daţnyc is considered to be this way it describes the action
> of stumbling upon something due to happenstance.

So it's non-volitional. I see no particular problem with just calling
those "experience verbs".

> With all of this in mind, I propose the question of how these
> "experiencers" should be categorized. It seems to me that sentences with
> experiencer verbs are not in the active voice like in (1) or in the
> passive voice like in (2). I'm not sure I'm ready to call it the middle
> voice because although there are definitions describing middle voice as
> simply a verb where the subject has elements of agent and patient, some
> also include words like "reflexive" or "intransitive" which are
> definitely not relevant here.

If this is their "natural", default state, without the application of
any formal voice-altering syntactic or morphological alterations, then
they are in active voice.

Now, if you can *also* say ?"kemönmon daţnycfê sê" to mean something
like "I found the deer (on purpose)", then maybe that experiencer
construction is best called a (syntactic) passive. But if not, if the
OSV construction is actually inherently required by that verb, then
"voice" is the wrong way to be thinking about this.

Because their active forms kind of *look* like passives on the
surface, you might call them "deponent" verbs (stealing terminology
from Latin grammar for a similar phenomenon). But that's not terribly
descriptive; it hides the fact that there is a semantic basis for the

Is it possible to say ?"vazöt sê dëgemfêsun dac" to mean "the cat was
chosen by me"?

Whether either or both of those constructions are grammatical (under
the supplied interpretations) will determine what I personally think
is the best analysis.