Source of Ergative Case

This week (3/12) ErgLab continued working on variation in the source of ergativity. In addition to looking at languages where ergative case looks to be dependent on thematic properties, we also discussed the excellent 2010 article The structural ergative of Basque and the theory of Case by Rezac, Albizu, and Etxepare.

1 Comment

  1. Hi!

    I have a question, I hope you can help me… I´m studying a dependant-marking ergative Chibchan language with no verbal person marking at all (only optionally marking the absolutive in plural). Some people say it is split-ergative based on some phenomena, it has also described as having four ergative allomorphs which are probably oblique case markers for the most part. The language doesn´t mark the absolutive and it doesn´t have a genetive case, even though it makes wide use of the dative, instrumental and at least one locative.

    The language has a “middle voice”, more of an anticausative, negated perfective verbs are incompatible in the active voice. These conditions inmediately trigger the middle. In some cases (including some deponent verbs) the agent in the middle is marked with the same morphem as in “dative possessive” constructions.

    I know these constructions from Hebrew and dialectal German/Middle German

    “mir sind zwei Kuhe”
    1sg.dat are two cows”

    Exactly the same as some possessive constructions in this language “X exists 1sg” in the active voice.

    My understanding is that the dative is a lexical case which, due to UTAH always originates in V. Since Anticausatives probably have no subject in Spec vP like active transitive sentences, this would explain the use of it in these sentences. In that case, would you still analize it as an Ergative?

    The problem is that the same morpheme is used in the Perfect tense and in Irrealis in active sentences, if no auxiliaries are involved.

    My other question is, am I right in saying it is expected for an Ergative language not to mark this case in the presence of modal verbs and stative auxiliaries? I guess that makes sense due to semantic reasons, but syntactically as well?

    Thank you in advance!

    A confused foreign linguistics student

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