Monday, September 28, 2015

Animacy and Case in Sargaĺk

The Sargaĺk gender system has a further subdivision – there is an animate vs. inanimate distinction as well. This does not appear very clearly in the case morphology, but in some constructions they are treated in different manners. This distinction cuts through both of the genders, in effect giving us a 2*2 gender system. A relatively small number of nouns are inanimate feminines, the majority of inanimates being masculine.

1. Causatives
An animate causer argument of a causative is in the pegative or nominative case (depending on how transitive the resulting verb phrase is). However, inanimate causers take a postposition - ips - which requires the accusative case.

(A further detail: there can at most be one constituent in the pegative case in a VP, so a structure like "A made B give C D" comes out with A in the pegative, B in the nominative, C in the nominative and D in the accusative. However, if A is inanimate, B is pegative.)

Coordination between subjects requires both to be marked the same way. Usually, an animate subject can "promote" an inanimate subject to take the same case marking, but some speakers seem to favour the other approach.

2. Demoted Subjects of Passives
The agent of a passive verb can be represented using a comitative-instrumental for animates, but takes acc + ips for inanimates.

3.Subjectless Verbs
There is a set of verbs that do not, normally, take (syntactical) subjects at all. These include nagan, slumber, imbur, be temporarily settled somewhere, urdrys, to grow, izgər, to breathe, uvis, to whistle (or 'there's noise from the wind'), mondyr, to listen to, anmir, (of ice on the sea), to melt. For all of these, an inanimate subject is acc + ips, an animate subject is comitative.

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