LINGUIST List 7.1320

Tue Sep 24 1996

Disc: Ergatives in lang acq

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. oshita, clarification of sum on ergatigves in L1 acq
  2. David-Wible, passive ergatives in L2 acq

Message 1: clarification of sum on ergatigves in L1 acq

Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 23:21:43 PDT
From: oshita <>
Subject: clarification of sum on ergatigves in L1 acq
Dear Linguists,

In my recent summary on "passives" on ergatives in L1 acquisition, one
of the reference I listed was incomplete. Prof. Frank Wijnen provided
the following information as soon as my summary appeared in the List.
I thank him for the information and appologize for the delay in
posting it.


Hiro Oshita
Dept. of Linguistics

Maaike Verrips & Frank Wijnen (Eds.), The Acquisition of Dutch
(Amsterdam Series in Child Language Development 1). Amsterdam:
Institute for General Linguistics, 1993. 120 pp.

Price: Dfl. 15,--


Loekie Elbers, A. van Loon-Vervoorn & M. van Helden-Lankhaar,
`Contrastive usage and the development of lexical organization and
innovative labelling'.
Paula Fikkert, `The acquisition of Dutch stress'.
Claartje Levelt, `Consonant harmony: a reanalysis in terms of
vowel-consonant interaction'.
Maaike Verrips, `Comprehension of passive and anti-causative by Dutch
Mieke Beers, `Phonological acquisition in Dutch children: subsitution
patterns of continuants'.
Angeliek van Hout, J. Randall & J. Weissenborn, `Acquiring the
unergative-unaccusative distinction.

Ordering information (credit card orders accepted):

 | Frank Wijnen |
 | Utrecht University -- OTS |
 | Trans 10 |
 | 3512 JK Utrecht (NL) |
 | tel. ++ 31 30 253 6052 |
 | fax. ++ 31 30 253 6000 |
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Message 2: passive ergatives in L2 acq

Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 15:30:19 +0800
From: David-Wible <>
Subject: passive ergatives in L2 acq
I have a thought on the possible source of L2 learner errors such as
the example mentioned in the Sept 14 summary on "passive" unergative:
	*A strange thing was happened before my eyes.

The contributor mentioned that native speakers of Chinese make such
English errors though Chinese doesn't have something comarable to 
French's passe compose or Italian's passato prossimo. 

Chinese does however allow the sole argument of certain unaccusative 
type verbs to appear postverbally under certain conditions (one being
an indefiniteness requirement, it seems). For example:

	Houlai fashengle yi jian hen qiguai de shi
	Then	happened one CL very strange thing

Could L2 learners in making errors like the English example above be
doing something like the following:

	They know English (unlike Chinese) requires a subject in 
		canonical subject position.
	The L1 (Chinese) version of the sentence has no (pronounced)
		canonical subject, and they realize the English version
		would require one.
	Passivization is a strategy for "raising to subject" and 
		(depending on your theory) is a way supplying a 
		subject for a non-thematic subject position.
	So, passivize, raising the sole (postverbal) argument to subject
		position as part of the deal along with supplying
		passive morphology. Hence, from:

			Fashengle yi jian qiguai de shiqing
			happened [one CL strange matter]

			[A strange thing] was happened....

Has this been looked at? It would require a look at the classes of 
verbs that are in the attested L2 "passive ergative" errors, and maybe
at the (in)definiteness of the sole argument in the attested errors.
Just a thought.

David Wible
Tamkang University
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