Thursday, November 22, 2012

Onwards with Detail #6: More on split dechticaetiatives

(If I pull this post off without a single typo, I am happy. My spellchecker doesn't know dechticaetiativity.)

Dechticaetiative alignment, for those who do not know the term, is a bit like ergative and absolutive for indirect and direct objects. This means the direct object is demoted to some other case whenever an indirect object - which then has the same marking as the direct object of a transitive verb.

Rephrasing what one source has to say on terminology:
The recipient of a ditransitive verb and the direct object of a transitive verb are known as the primary object, whereas the direct object of a ditransitive verb is known as the secondary object.[1]
So basically
A.nom sees B.acc
A.nom gives B.acc C.dec => B=recipient, C=direct object

In the previous post on this detail, I described a split-dechticaetiative system. Is such a system sufficient to be able to distinguish grammatical information? For a system where some lexical items trigger one system to be entered into, there are two basic options - either the lexical items trigger dative-like behavior, or dechticaetiative-like behavior.

Dative as the triggered option

Let us assume it triggers dative-like behavior. In that language, the normal construction would be
A.nom Verb B.acc C.dec (essentially conveying what in dative languages would be A verbs B.dat C.acc)

For no reason whatsoever except that I need to be able to refer to something that triggers the behavior, I will go for reflexive pronouns being the trigger.
In that case we get either
A.nom verb rflx.dat B.acc
A.nom Verb rflx.acc B.dat

The presence of .dat itself (or whatever other marking, be it on the verb or some particle or whatever) is sufficient to show that something odd is going down. We can come up with a further restriction: what if dative behavior only is triggered by the reflexive pronoun acting as direct object?

  • A.nom verb rflx.dat B.acc
  • A.nom verb rflx.dec B.acc

This seems interesting. The .acc-marking on B remains the same no matter whether the reflexive pronoun is dative or dechticaetiative. A neat benefit of this is that only the pronouns that trigger the dative-like behavior require any dative morpheme.

What if the same pronoun is used for other third person as well as reflexive third person? Is there sufficient information available to tell whether it's reflexive or not based on which alignment is triggered?

In merely transitive sentences, no - and there could very well be some extra marker appearing in those. In ditransitive sentences it would be sufficient, though, but not in combination with the previous rule (which restricted dative behavior to the pronoun acting as direct object).

  • A.nom verb pron[A].dat B.acc
  • A.nom verb pron[not-A].acc B.dec


  • A.nom verb B.dat pron[A].acc
  • A.nom verb B.acc pron[not-A].dec

Dechticaetiativity as the triggered option

Let us investigate the other option, dechticaetiativity triggered by certain pronouns:

  • A.nom verb B.dat C.acc
  • A.nom verb rflx.acc C.dec
  • (A.nom verb C.acc rflx.dec)
I would guess the third sense there is unusual - for some reason, "I give you myself" and such seems a rather unusual thing to say, unless there are very specific cultural reasons for it - which there well may be, and maybe I just happen to live in a culture where such utterances seem highly marked, who knows.

What we notice here is that it seems nearly impossible to get rid of having to mark every noun for every case - there must be dec, acc and dat available for each.

Of course, I'd deal with that either by having these also mark some other case, such as
dat = gen
dec = loc

or something along those lines. Another option, of course, is to use adpositions or have a fully productive case morphology, or marking on the verbs instead. What also could be fun would be to have either dechticaetiative or dative be identical to accusative. 

Lexical Hierarchies?

How about having a hierarchy of which noun is likely to be direct object and which is likely to be indirect object, such that they both are syntactically treated as direct objects. When an unusual order is desired, some synonym that is higher up in the hierarchy is used. This is of course a direct ripoff of animacy-hierarchy object marking systems. However, I would almost wager that this is unlikely to develop in this part of the language, and more likely to appear with regard to the direct object vs. subject distinction.

Split dechticaetiativity would be interesting to combine with some voice system and have the ways things shift around get somewhat unpredictable. Dechticaetiativity, of course, is the new ergative, so I guess I am late on that bandwagon. Another thing, of course, would be to chain together ergative and dechticaetiative systems, but I know I am not the first to propose that. I suspect strongly that no such language exists "in nature", so to speak, since dechticaetiative languages are fairly uncommon outside of Africa, and ergative languages are fairly uncommon inside of Africa. If God exists, he's holding out on us.

Further complications?
Of course, there is nothing that says the presence itself of the pronoun has to trigger it - maybe only the presence of the trigger lexemes in the right syntactical role triggers it? Or it is verb-specific, or relates to how the speaker feels about the event referred to.

[1] Wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment