4

It is well-known that some ergative languages lack morphological case. If there is no case, where does their ergativity show up?

3
  • 2
    If it is well-known, how about some examples? Mar 11 '15 at 23:48
  • 1
    Do you know any ergative language that would not even mark case on pronouns? Mar 12 '15 at 1:13
  • 1
    @IvanKapitonov Abkhaz
    – Atamiri
    Mar 12 '15 at 1:56
3

Abkhaz is ergative and caseless. Verbs have slots that express their arguments by prefixes. An example of an intransitive verbs is с-цоит "I go" (the prefix in the first slot signals the subject's person, gender, and number).

Then there are bipersonal intransitive verbs, such as с-у-суеит "I hit you". The first slot signals the subject and the second slot the indirect object.

Finally, there are transitive verbs. In и-∅-з-боит "I see it" what is expressed in the first slot is the direct object. The subject is expressed in the third slot.

NPs are optionally adjoined to the verb and agree with it in person, gender, and number, thus allowing for free word order.

Circassian, another Northwest Caucasian language, has the same verb structure but since it has morphological case, the verb agrees with its arguments in person, case, gender, and number.

6
  • 1
    "bipersonal intransitive verbs"?!? Some linguistics seriously need to use more straightforward terminology.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 12 '15 at 6:49
  • @curiousdannii This is how it's called (by Hewitt). It makes sense in the description of Northwest Caucasian languages.
    – Atamiri
    Mar 12 '15 at 12:46
  • How do you mean "the verb agrees with its arguments in ... case"? Is it that Circassian has different series for some bound pronouns depending on that argument's case, while Abkhaz only marks it with the prefix order? Mar 14 '15 at 9:09
  • @IvanKapitonov In Circassian, the verb agrees in case with the NPs (if present) which inflect for case.
    – Atamiri
    Mar 14 '15 at 13:58
  • Maybe an example is in order, because that just seems to me repeating what you said. Sorry, maybe I just have problems with the wording. So is it -у- vs -б- in the second person? Mar 14 '15 at 23:10
4

It may show in a number of things.

First of all, in agreement: if the language has bound pronouns, they will differentiate between A vs. S&P (where A is Agent, S is the Single argument of an intransitive and P is Patient).

Another thing is the syntactic ergativity in the wide sense, i.e., any clustering of morphosyntactic characteristics for A vs. S&P. This includes restrictions on relativization, topicalization and wh-movement of the ergative, binding and control priority of the absolutive, coordinate omission (girl-1 kissed-1 boy-2 and smiled-2), and even valency changing derivations (see Letuchiy on Adyghe; it's a language with case, though).

For the work on syntactic ergativity, see Manning's dissertation, Aldridge, and Polinsky, a.o.

Also, in a fixed word order language ergativity could manifest in word order (not that I heard of such, but logically possible).

2
  • Good answer, but A S and O stand for Agent, Single, and Other.
    – Moss
    Aug 30 '17 at 11:46
  • @Moss Thanks, fair point, I brushed that up. Aug 31 '17 at 13:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy