LINGUIST List 14.2226

Fri Aug 22 2003

Qs: Ergative Languages; Genitive & Pos Construction

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  1. Mario van de Visser, Looking for native speakers of Ergative Languages
  2. Suzie Bartsch, Origin of genitive and possessive constructions

Message 1: Looking for native speakers of Ergative Languages

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 05:38:28 +0000
From: Mario van de Visser <>
Subject: Looking for native speakers of Ergative Languages

Dear colleagues,

We would like to get into contact with native speakers of languages
with ergative features. Our aim is to gather information on word
order, case, agreement and quantification in these languages. We have
developed a written questionnaire which consists of four parts, each
one of them taking about 30-45 minutes to be filled out. The main
activity will be translating simple sentences from English into the
native language of the informant. We will provide a version in French,
Spanish or Russian if necessary. The questionnaire does not presuppose
any linguistic knowledge. The languages we are especially interested
in are:



Nez Perce	(Penutian)

Mayan		(any language)


Päri		(Nilotic)

Abkhaz 	 (or any other Northwest Caucasian language)

Tsakhur	 (or any other Northeast Caucasian language)

Kurmanji (or any other Kurdish dialect)

Alutor		(Chukotko-Kamchatkan)

Kapampangan	(Philippines)

Yimas 		(Papuan)

Warlpiri 	(or any closely related Pama-Nyungan language)

Samoan	 (Polynesian)

We are well aware of the fact that some of these languages do not have
many speakers left, which may make it very hard to find any native
speaker who will be prepared to help us. Therefore, any suggestions
which could bring us closer to native speakers or people who might be
in contact with them would be highly welcome. Also, we would like to
point out here that we will understand if people are able to answer
only part of our questionnaire.

All reactions should be sent to:


Peter Ackema
Mario van de Visser
Utrecht University 
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Message 2: Origin of genitive and possessive constructions

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 12:53:05 +0200
From: Suzie Bartsch <>
Subject: Origin of genitive and possessive constructions

Dear all,

For a paper on overextension and grammaticalization in the emergence
of genitive constructions in ontogeny, compared to diachrony, I'm
searching for functional-cognitive accounts on the historical
emergence and grammaticalization of possessive and genitive
constructions in German, English and Portuguese (and other languages
as well), in following idioms (for practical reasons I simplify here
the Engl. correspondance to the Port. and Germ. examples and sorry
for possible English ungrammaticalities):

 (1a) Engl. It's my turn.
 (1b) Engl. It's Gabriel's turn.

 (2a) Port. � a minha vez.
 [Is the my turn (vez < Lat. vici 'change, rotation,

 (2b) Port. � a vez do Gabriel.
 [Is the turn of-the Gabriel.]

in contrast to
 (3a) Germ. Ich bin dran
 [I am there-at.]
 Ich bin an der Reihe.
 [I am at the row.]

 (3b) Germ. Gabriel ist dran.
 [Gabriel is there-at.]
 Gabriel ist an der Reihe.
 [Gabriel is at the row.]

That is, the main referent of such idioms appears in modern German in
nominative, as a subject, whereas in mod. English and mod. Port., it's
realized with a possessive pronoun or with a genitive construction
(declination in Engl., preposition in Port.).

Other - idiomatic and non-idiomatic - functions of genitive
constructions, as the genuine possessive genitive and also in the
context of which is called in the traditional latin grammar as
genitivus subjectivus, genitivus objectivus etc. interest me as well.

The following example from English (historical subject-object shift
due to functional reanalyses and analogy in the context of
serialization patterns) gives an idea of the sort of accounts which
I'm searching for:

(4a) O. Engl. Pam kynge licoden peran.
 To the king-[dative] were-pleasing pears. (pears plural

(4b) M. Engl. The king licenden peares.
 The king were-pleasing pears. (no dative marking)

(4c) Mod. Engl. The king liked pears. (S-->O and O-->S)

Example from Tomasello, Michael (2003): Constructing a Language: A
Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition. Cambridge, MA & London:
Harvard Univ. Press. (p.15-16)

Thanks in advance.

Suzie Bartsch
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