LINGUIST List 15.953

Sun Mar 21 2004

Qs: Lang/Gender Articles; Early Ergativity Desc

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  1. Johanna Rubba, language/gender query
  2. Eduardo Ribeiro, Ergativity avant la lettre

Message 1: language/gender query

Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2004 12:09:37 -0800
From: Johanna Rubba <>
Subject: language/gender query

I'm looking for articles for readings in a Language and Gender
class. I was wondering if anyone could send me leads to:

- Good online bibliographies or databases for this subject (I'm
familiar with the Expanded Academic Index but am wondering if there
are more-focused ones out there)

- Particular articles on:
	- empirical studies of supposed pronunciation clues to sexual orientation
	- recent empirical research on interpretations of pronouns
	- recent articles on language that is biased against men

I'd prefer relatively recent work (since 1998).

Any help would be appreciated!

Johanna Rubba Associate Professor, Linguistics 
English Department, California Polytechnic State University
One Grand Avenue o San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 
Tel. (805)-756-2184 o Fax: (805)-756-6374 Dept. Phone. 756-2596
E-mail: Home page:
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Message 2: Ergativity avant la lettre

Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2004 00:56:29 -0500 (EST)
From: Eduardo Ribeiro <>
Subject: Ergativity avant la lettre

Dear colleagues,

I am interested in obtaining information about early descriptions of
ergative systems (i.e. descriptive works written before ergativity
came to be seen as an independent case-marking strategy). This
interest comes from my work on Kariri (or Kiriri), an ergative
Macro-J� language once spoken in northeast Brazil.

The most comprehensive description of Kariri (first published in 1699)
is a grammar written by Luiz Mamiani (1652-1730), a Jesuit priest.
Although he relies essentially on the classical, Greco-Latin
grammatical tradition, Mamiani manages to describe Kariri ergativity
in a very coherent (and, one may say, elegant and economic) fashion.
He describes all transitive verbs as being intrinsically
passive. These 'passive' verbs, as well as all intransitive verbs
(which he calls 'neutral'), take a morphologically unmarked
'nominative' argument (what would be called the 'absolutive' argument
in current jargon). In addition, all 'passive' verbs require an
'ablative of agent' (the ergative argument), marked by an adposition.
By having transitive verbs treated as passive, everything else falls
into place (including reflexivization and switch-reference, which
follow a strictly absolutive pattern in Kariri).

I would appreciate it if you could provide me with any information on
the solutions devised by other grammarians from that period (the first
three centuries of colonization of the Americas) to describe
ergativity. Was the 'passive approach' a common descriptive solution?
Were there terminological innovations? Although my focus is on the
indigenous languages of the Americas, I would certainly be interested
in hearing about early descriptions of Basque and other ergative
languages of the Old World as well.

Thanks in advance.



[PS. I'm aware that an approach similar to Mamiani's was adopted in
some 20th-century theoretical treatments of ergativity, but at this
point I'm especially interested in the pioneering descriptive work
found in early grammars.]

Eduardo Rivail Ribeiro
Department of Linguistics (University of Chicago)
Museu Antropol�gico (Universidade Federal de Goi�s)
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