If a language has an ergative absolutive alignment in which subjects and objects of clauses are marked for absolutive marking does the distinction between subject and object ever get difficult to define? Or does that not even matter if they never occur together? For example in a sentence like "she-ABS fell" where she is marked as absolutive would you analyse this as an o argument or a subject?

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    The term "subject", as in the sole argument of an intransitive verb and the agent of a transitive verb, presupposes that those two situations have something in common. In an ergative-absolutive system, they don't necessarily.
    – Draconis
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 16:30
  • "does the distinction between subject and object ever get difficult to define?" Yes, indeed. Just like the distinction between Ergative and Absolutive is often difficult to define in English. Luckily, "subject" and "object" need not be defined (let alone distinguished) in languages with Ergative-Absolutive systems. Some Australian languages have both - nouns mark Ergative cases but pronouns mark Accusative.
    – jlawler
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 17:07
  • Most ergative languages actually some some nominative-accusative features as well, called split ergativity. Languages that are completely ergative are actually very rare.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 1:35


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