Transitivity in natural syntax : ergative languages


  • Janez Orešnik University of Ljubljana



Transitivity in natural syntax, ergative languages


The paper implements the framework of Natural Syntax and treats various phenomena bearing on transitivity using the language material of ergative languages. In each case one ergative and one antipassive constructions are compared, and certain properties of such pairs are predicted. It is new in the paper that it is necessary to distinguish less or more transitive antipassive constructions. In the more transitive ones the agent and the patient are coded with the ergative case, the absolutive case, the nominative case, or the patient is integrated (at least to some extent) into the corresponding verb. More transitive antipassive constructions and the corresponding ergative constructions remain transitive. Because transitivity represents an unnatural environment, the alignment of the corresponding naturalness values is chiastic. The remaining antipassive constructions are less transitive, so that any pair consisting of such a construction and of the corresponding ergative construction withdraws from the unnatural environment of transitivity, and hence the alignment of the corresponding naturalness values is parallel. Another unnatural environment is represented by the patient just in case that its syntactic, not semantic, properties are treated. Consequently the alignment of the corresponding naturalness values ischiastic. The paper discusses 18 ergative languages, mostly from the Caucasus and the Pacific Ocean.


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29. 12. 2009

How to Cite

Orešnik, J. (2009). Transitivity in natural syntax : ergative languages. Linguistica, 49(1), 65-93.