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Encyclopedia > Split ergativity

Split ergativity is shown by languages that have a partly ergative behaviour, but employ another syntax or morphology (usually accusative) in some contexts. In fact, most of the so-called ergative languages are not pure but split-ergative.

The split is usually conditioned by one of these:

  1. The presence of a discourse participant (a first or second person) in the proposition. The Australian language Dyirbal behaves ergatively in all morphosyntactic contexts, except when one of these is involved. When a first or second person pronoun appears, however, it is marked according to a nominative-accusative pattern (with the least marked case when it is the subject, and with the most marked case when it is the object).
  2. The use of certain tenses and/or aspects in the verb. The Indo-Iranian family, for example, shows a split between the perfect and the imperfect aspect. A verb in the perfect aspect causes its arguments to be marked using an ergative pattern, while the imperfect aspect triggers accusative marking. (Related languages and others always tend to associate past tense and/or perfect aspect with ergativity.)
  3. The agentivity of the intransitive subject. In languages like Dakota, subjects of active verbs such as to run are marked like transitive subjects as in accusative languages, while subjects of inactive verbs such as to stand are marked like transitive objects as in ergative languages. Languages with this kind of marking are known as split-S languages.

  Results from FactBites:
Ergative-absolutive language - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1063 words)
An ergative-absolutive language (or simply ergative) is one that treats the subject of transitive verbs distinctly from the subject of intransitive verbs and the object of transitive verbs.
Ergative languages are in contrast to nominative-accusative languages (such as English), which treat the object of transitive verbs distinctly from the subject of both transitive and intransitive verbs.
Georgian also has an ergative alignment, but the subject is only marked with the ergative case for transitive verbs in the past tense (also known as the "aorist screeve").
  More results at FactBites »



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