LINGUIST List 6.281

Wed 22 Feb 1995

Disc: Object Affixes

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  1. jaejung song, Addendum to Coston's Object Affixes

Message 1: Addendum to Coston's Object Affixes

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 10:42:42 Addendum to Coston's Object Affixes
From: jaejung song <jaejung.songstonebow.otago.ac.nz>
Subject: Addendum to Coston's Object Affixes

In his summary of object affixes (LINGUIST List: Vol-6-235. Fri 17 Feb
1995), Simon Corston observes: Languages with object affixes but which lack
affixes indicating other grammatical relations do occur, but would appear
to be uncommon. That, however, really depends on what we mean by object
affixes (and subject affixes for that matter). So-called subject and
object affixes fall into three types: (i) nonreferential/nonanaphoric
agreement markers; (ii) 'functionally ambiguous' agreement markers (i.e.
functioning as both nonreferential/nonanaphoric agreement markers and
anaphoric/referential markers depending on the context) (Bresnan and
Mchombo 1987); and (iii) anaphoric or referential markers.

The Nuclear Micronesian group provides an interesting case for the
foregoing distinction. For instance, in Woleaian, the subject markers are
independent words, whereas the object markers are suffixes. But they are
both functionally ambiguous agreement markers. In Kusaiean, the subject
and object markers are also independent words and suffixes, respectively.
But they are all referential pronouns. For more detailed discussion of the
Nuclear Micronesian languages see my paper: 'The Verb-Object Bonding
Principle: With Special Reference to Nuclear Micronesian Languages' (see
refs below).

If the complexity in subject and object affixes (viz. the three types
mentioned above) is disregarded, probably Corston's observation may hold.
But if only anaphoric/referential subject and object markers are taken into
account, it may be a different story. In fact, in the same paper I have
used a small convenience sample of 40 languages to ascertain whether the
Verb-Object Bonding Principle (as proposed in Tomlin 1986: 'a transitive
verb and its object form a more cohesive, unified syntactic and semantic
whole than do a transitive verb and its subject') is evident in the
pronominal system as well: e.g. object pronouns are more tightly bonded to
the verb than subject pronouns are. The upshot of this investigation is
that object pronouns (e.g. affixes) are more tightly bonded to the verb
than subject pronouns (e.g. independent words). This suggests that insofar
as referential/anaphoric markers are concerned, 'languages with object
affixes but which lack affixes indicating other grammatical relations' may
be crosslinguistically common, rather than uncommon.

Refereneces
Bresnan J. and S. Mchombo 1987. Topic, pronoun, and agreement in Chichewa.
Language 63:741-782.
Givon, T. 1976. Topic, pronoun, and grammatical agreement. In Subject and
Topic, ed. by C.N. Li, pp. 149-188. New York: Academic Press.
Tomlin, R.S. 1986. Basic word order: functional principles. London: Croom Helm.
Song, J.J. 1994. The Verb-Object Bonding Principle: With Special Reference
to Nuclear Micronesian Languages. Oceanic Linguistics 33.2 (in press).

Jae Jung Song
University of Otago
New Zealand
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