This week we heard from Martha Schwartz on split ergativity in Nepali.

Summary:

DPs that are always ergative-marked: subject of a perfective transitive clause

DPs that are never ergative-marked: objects, subject of unaccusatives

DPs that are optionally marked and/or subject to speaker variation:  subject of an imperfective transitive clause, unergative subject

Notes:

  • This is the same distribution as in Tibetan
  • Some possible things that might affect whether ERG is marked in the optional/variable situations (mostly lifted from Jessica’s research on Tibetan):
    • evidentiality
    • degree of surprise: surprising = erg-marked
    • focus: focused = erg-marked
    • degree of certainty (= evidentiality?)
    • animacy: lower animacy could be more likely to have erg marker
    • theticity
  • 2 forms for 4 cases:
    • -le = ERG and INSTR
    • -laai = DOM and DAT

 

Thanks, Martha!