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Ergative and active traits in Latin



While Latin syntax uses overwhelmingly accusative alignment, there are also constructions which show ergative or active alignment.
Christiani Lehmanni inedita, publicanda, publicata
Ergative and active traits in Latin
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lehmann_ergative_latin .pdf
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Symposium 'Akkusativischer, ergativischer und aktivischer
Sprachbau', Universität Hannover, 15.-17.01.1982
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Plank, Frans (ed.), Relational typology. Berlin etc.: Mouton
(Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs, 28)
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... The 10% in which the second complement has a different syntactic function, and the 30% in which the third complement has a different syntactic function, are for the most part not erratic exceptions, but are due to the interaction of independent principles. Also, Latin possesses a couple of traits of ergative and active/inactive structure (Lehmann 1985a) which, however, it shares with many other accusative languages and which do not render it unusual within this type of fundamental relations. ...
... Thus, the actor-undergoer axis of figure 1 is manifested by the syntagmatic contrast between subject and direct object, where the sole complement of the intransitive verb is included in the subject function. This contrast is strengthened by the passive operation, which also includes the subject of semantically active intransitive verbs (Lehmann 1985a). The indirect object may also be identified as one of the syntactic functions governed by the verb, but it is clearly less well integrated in the valency (conversion processes such as the one discussed in section 3.3 do integrate it to some extent). ...
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The goal is to characterize the structural properties of valency in Latin and to bring out its role in the language system in comparison with other languages. The conceptual framework presupposed is functional typology. In an onomasiological perspective, the basis of valency is conceptual relationality, which may manifest itself in syntactic structure in different ways and to different degrees. Verb valency is analyzed in the context of syntactic relations in general, including nominal valency; and its role in the system is assessed with regard to the kinds of operations that exist to change it. It turns out that valency is underdeveloped in Latin, in the sense that government exerted by verbs and other grammatically relational words is relatively loose. To this correspond a great liberality in the addition of nominal and adverbial dependents to one verb, with no emphasis on the distinction between complements and adjuncts, and a low profile of valency-changing operations in the language system. All of this can be related to a dependent-marking syntactic type.
... If a language is mainly ergative or exhibits multiple ergative patterns, it will go through a series of processes that will bring it closer to accusativity. In fact, Indo-European presented a great many ergative particularities (Laroche 1962, Meillet 1931) that decreased in Latin (Cennamo 2009) and which are even fewer in current Romance languages (Lehmann 1985). In the case of Spanish, it has gradually eliminated the syntactic particularities that highlighted ergative or split intransitivity patterns (Elvira 2012). ...
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The western variety of Peninsular Spanish possesses a type of causative construction in which an intransitive lexeme is used transitively. This phenomenon, called lability, is attested in three specific verbs: caer (‘to fall’), quedar (‘to stay’) and entrar (‘to enter’). As a consequence, they can induce a direct object at the expense of the standard forms tirar (‘to throw’), dejar (‘to leave’) and meter (‘to put in’). Lability has not been studied in depth for Spanish and, with this paper, I attempt to pinpoint its current extension as well as the possible semantic factors that prompt the transitivisation of these verbs.
... Si una lengua es principalmente ergativa o muestra múltiples patrones ergativos, sufrirá una serie de estadios que la acerquen a la acusatividad. Según esto, el indoeuropeo presentaba una gran cantidad de particularidades ergativas (Laroche 1962;Meillet 1931) que se redujeron en latín (Cennamo 2009) y que fueron todavía menos en el paso a las lenguas romances actuales (Lehmann 1985). En el caso del español, este ha ido eliminando de manera gradual las particularidades sintácticas que resaltaban los patrones de intransitividad o ergatividad escindidas (Elvira 2012). ...
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Western Peninsular Spanish possesses a type of causative construction in which an intransitive lexeme is used as transitive. Specifically, the verbs caer (‘to fall’), quedar (‘to stay’) and entrar (‘to enter) can induce a direct object in detriment of the standard verbs tirar (‘to throw’), dejar (‘to leave’) and meter (‘to put in’). This phenomenon (called lability) has not been investigated in depth for Spanish and, with this paper I attempt to pinpoint its current geographical extension as well as the semantic factors that favour the transitivisation of these verbs.
... The occurrence of other verbs in these kínds of envíronment may be restrícted, but as a general explanation the postulation of controlledness as a críterion wíll not do me notion of «control a is relevant for another type of explanation Sor the occurrence of non-accusatíve case forms wíth two-place verbs It has been observed that in many languages passívízatíon is restrícted to controlled states of affaírs in whích an agent is unvolved patíent relationshíp between the two arguments unvolved in a predícation For Latín, too, «agentívíty>' or control has been said to be a condítion for passívízatíon (Lehmann, 1982) In other studíes (for example Set-bat, 1981 a, 135 ff) the possubílíty of passívízatíon is ascríbed to a semantíc feature of "transítívíty" of the verbs involved As for the verbs whose second argument us marked by a non-accusatíve case, they are usually not found un a personal passíve constructuon As a consequence these verbs are thought to lack the feature '<transítívíty» However, un absence of índependent arguments for postulating the feature of «transítívíty" 2 for these verbs the whole líne of reasoníng is circular Assumíng that the notíons of <'transítívíty", "agentívíty» and «controllability» are used more or less un the same way, the tests mentioned in the prevíous paragraph rather suggest 2 The notion of «transítívíty« in a semanííc sense has been studíed fruitfully by Hopper and Thompson (1980) See also Tsuroda (1985) Por the relation between «transítívíty» aríd «passívízatíon» see Síewíerska, 1984, 15 ff, a o that there is no difference between the predícates un thus respect Morcover, there are occasuonal unstances of personal passíve constructíons for verbs governíng a non-accusatíve (9) and there us an alternatuve expression type un the impersonal passíve (10) 9 laríx ab caríe aul línea non nocetur («the larch us not injured by dry rotor the worni», Vítr,2,9,14), and 10 ne quid eís noceatur neu quis unvítus sacrameníum dictre cogatur, a Caesare cavetur («pledges are giverí by Caesar that no wrong should be done to theíi-t and thai no oiie should he compelled to take the oath of allegíance agaínst hís wíll", Caes , Civ -1, 86) ...
It is shown that ergative and accusative systems are equivalent with transitive verbs: A≠ O. They differ, instead, with intransitives: ergative (S = O) vs. accusative (S = A). Both systems, as opposed to active systems, are intended to establish a direct relationship between verbal category (one- vs. two-argument verbs) and argument marking. Nevertheless, there is evidence of the active type in both ergative and accusative systems. This and other facts reveal how morphosyntax reflects semantics. It is supposed that this is a universal cognitive principle. Moreover, the instability of the argument marking systems is explained as a consequence ofthe discrepancy between discrete features (number of ar-guments, superficial syntactic roles) and graded features (semantic roles).
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Predicate classes are semantic classes of lexemes that can function as the predicate of a clause. The are formed by the criteria relating to situation cores like dynamicity and telicity, relating to participant roles like degree of involvement, controll, affectedness and by participant properties like animacy. These structuring parameters are defined with examples from many languages. In the final part, numerous predicates are classified by these criteria, to serve as tertia comparationis in onomasiological descriptions of predicate classes of any language.
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When accounting for the usage of some linguistic form, one can refer to its discourse profile, all concomitant features frequently co-occurring with that form in discourse, or abstract a more general claim about its discourse function, referring only to the necessary and sufficient conditions for the proper occurrence of the form. This article discusses discourse profile and discourse function approaches to referring expressions in linguistic and psycholinguistic research. Focusing on English prenominal possessive noun phrases (NPs, e.g., my career), I argue that although their (prototypical) discourse profile is amenable to clearly defined automatic processing or production cues, and to explaining potential grammaticizations, only their discourse functions can account for all the forms actually attested in discourse. I conclude that both types of accounts are linguistically relevant, and I propose that psycholinguists devise experiments to test the three hypotheses outlined (discourse profiles, discourse functions, and a combination of discourse profiles and discourse functions).
Morphological marking, whether realized by nominal case inflections or cross-referencing on the verb, can be either (i) ergative, marking transitive subject [A] function, vs. absolutive, marking intransitive subject [S] and transitive object [O]; or (ii) nominative, marking A and S, vs. accusative, marking O function. Absolutive is always the unmarked term in an absolutive/ergative opposition. Nominative is most frequently the unmarked term in a nominative/accusative system, but there are some languages in which accusative is unmarked. A language whose morphology mixes accusative and ergative marking has the split determined by (a) the semantic content of verbs, (b) the semantic content of NP's, (c) aspect/tense choice, or (d) a combination of these. A, S, and O are universal semantic-syntactic primitives. A universal category of 'subject' can be defined as the set {A,S}, and is valid only for the level of deep structure. Language-particular syntactic operations, such as coördination and subordination, work in terms of a (shallow-structure) 'pivot'; this is most often S/A, but can be wholly or partly S/O (languages of the latter type are said to be ergative at the syntactic level). A major function of antipassive or passive derivations is to place A or O NP's (respectively) in derived pivot function, S. Many languages which have some morphological ergativity are entirely accusative (S/A pivot) at the syntactic level. All languages that show syntactic ergativity have some morphological ergativity.
Linguistic postulates about ergativity and the like imply two different kinds of hypothesis: inductive hypotheses concerning morphosyntactic case forms and deductive hypotheses concerning semantic case roles. On the morphosyntactic level, we observe some implicational universals and an accumulation principle based on the economy of linguistic expression. On the semantic level, the distinction of an ACTIVE and an INACTIVE case role is considered as fundamental. The result is a new typology where the traditional ergative-accusative dichotomy is replaced by a fivefold distinction, including in addition the active, the neutral and the nonaccumulated types. Only the ergative, the accusative and the active types can constitute whole language systems. The essential features of the so-called active type, which has only recently come to be known, are illustrated by a detailed analysis of the verbal system of Guarani.