LINGUIST List 12.636

Thu Mar 8 2001

Sum: Raising/ Ergativity/ VSO

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. Arthur Holmer, Raising, ergativity and VSO

Message 1: Raising, ergativity and VSO

Date: Mon, 5 Mar 2001 14:27:39 +0100
From: Arthur Holmer <>
Subject: Raising, ergativity and VSO

Summary: Raising, ergativity and VSO

Dear colleagues:

Long, long ago (Vol-10-681, May 6th, 1999)I sent out a question to the list
concerning the existence of raising constructions in ergative languages
and/or VSO languages. My questions were the following:

a) Does the language have a raising verb such as "seem"?
b) Which of these patterns are displayed by raising verbs in the language?

	1)	It seems that Bill likes sausages.
	2)	Bill seems to like sausages.
	3)	*It seems Bill to like sausages.

c) In which case is the subject of such a raising verb realized?
d) For VSO languages: is the word order VSO in both main clauses and
subordinate clauses?
e) Finally - has anyone seen / heard of any work being done on this question?

I received five answers and I summarize them here:

1) Maggie Tallerman <>, University of Durham,
referred me to her article "The uniform Case-licensing of subjects in
Welsh" (The Linguistic Review 15(1998), 69-133), where it is clearly shown
how raising functions in Welsh. The relevant examples (p 125) show that
constructions 1) and 2) exist in Welsh.

2) Zouhair Maalej <>, University of Tunis I, gave the
following answers for Tunisian Arabic:

a. In TA, VSO is one of the unmarked possible structures, the other
unmarked configuration being VOS.
b. TA does have a raising verb like the English "seem" or "appear", which
is "yiDhir."
c. TA shows two possible realisations of such raising verbs like in 1) and
2) but not like 3):

- yiDhir illi MuHammad ja?
(seems that MuHammad has come):
It seems that MuHammad has arrived.

- MuHammad yiDhir ja?
(MuHammad seems has come):
MuHammad seems to have come.

d. The subject of such a raising verb is never overtly realized. However,
we do know via the gender and number features that are recoverable from
verb morphology in Arabic (which makes Subject Pro-drop possible in) that
the covert subject is masculine singular.
e. For TA, the word order in the main clause is the unmarked VSO, whereas
for the subordinate clause it is SVO or OVS such as in:

- yiDhir illi MuHammad ja:b l-xibz
(seems that MuHammad has brought the bread):
It seems that MuHammad bought bread.

- yiDhir illi l-xibz ja:bu MuHammad
(seems that the bread brought it MuHammad):
It seems that the bread was bought by MuHammad.
(with "u" as a resumptive pronoun in "ja:bu.")

3) Peter Jacobs <> sent me the following information on
Squamish (somewhat abbreviated):

Squamish, a Salish language spoken in Vancouver, Canada, is a VSO language.
In main clauses this is not obligatory, but in subordinate clauses it
normally is. Ergativity is marked on the verb.

Squamish does have the raising verb "seem". It only allows sentence type 1
that you presented. The subject is morphologically marked ergative on the
verb and the word is VSO.

4. Xabier Artiagoitia <>, University of the Basque
Country, gave me the following information on Basque (summarized very
briefly by myself, not quoted):

Basque does have a couple of of constructions akin to raising. Crucially,
the embedded verb is necessarily finite in such constructions. The subject
may appear in the Case corresponding to its position in the embedded clause
or in the Case corresponding to its position in the matrix clause. (All
mean "John seems to be tired"). (I (i.e. Arthur Holmer) have only
summarized data on the "ematen du" construction, two others exist).

a.	Ematen du Jon nekatuta dagoela.
	give AUX Jon-(ABS) tired is-COMP

b.	Jonek nekatuta dagoela ematen du.
	Jon-ERG tired is-COMP give AUX

c.	Jonek ematen du nekatuta dagoela.
	Jon-ERG give AUX tired is-COMP

Such constructions are restricted in their use (most speakers only accept
them with 3rd person subjects). Some speakers accept this construction when
the "raised subject" is not a subject at all, cf d.

d.	% Jonek ematen du norbaitek jo egin duela.
	Jon-ERG give AUX someone-ERG hit do AUX-COMP
	"Jon looks as if someone had hit him."

Speakers' acceptance of some of these constructions vary considerably.

5. Hsiu-Chuan Liao <>, University of Hawaii, referred me
to the following works:

Schachter, Paul. The Subject in Tagalog: Still None of the Above. UCLA
Occasional Papers in Linguistics Number 15.

Cook, Kenneth William. 1991. The search for subject in Samoan. In:
Currents in Pacific linguistics: Papers on Austronesian languages and
ethnolinguistics in honor of George W. Grace, ed. by Robert Blust,
pp.77-98. Pacific Linguistics C-117. Canberra: Australian National

Wecheler, Stephen & I Wayan Arka. 1998. Syntactic ergativity in Balinese:
An argument structure based theory. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
16, 387-441.

A sincere vote of thanks goes to Maggie Tallerman, Zouhair Maalej, Peter
Jacobs, Xabier Artiagoitia, Hsiu-Chuan Liao for information and hints, and
to the Linguist List for making it possible for me to pose the question.
Thank you!

Arthur Holmer, Lund University

Arthur Holmer, Ph.D.
Dept of Linguistics and Phonetics
Lund University
Helgonabacken 12
SE-223 62 Lund

fax:+46-46-222 4210
phone: +46-46-222 8446
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