Academic journal article Linguistic Discovery

Ditransitive Alignment and Referential Hierarchies in Araki

Academic journal article Linguistic Discovery

Ditransitive Alignment and Referential Hierarchies in Araki

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

1.1 General background

A number of authors--including Dryer (1986), Haspelmath (2005, 2011), Malchukov et al. (2010)--have highlighted the parallelism between two problems of syntactic typology: monotransitive alignment and ditransitive alignment (1). First, monotransitive alignment is concerned by which of the two arguments of a (mono)transitive clause (A the agent, P the patient) will be formally treated like the sole argument of an intransitive clause (S). As for the study of ditransitive alignment, it is concerned with the two non-agent arguments of a three-participant clause, namely the theme (T) and the recipient or goal (G); the question raised, this time, is which of these two arguments (T or G) will align with P, the sole non- agent argument of the monotransitive clause.

If the participant aligning with P is the Theme, we have an indirect object construction, or indirective alignment. This pattern--of the type She gave water to the guests-- is typologically the most common (Haspelmath 2011). Yet in many languages, the participant that aligns with the patient is the Goal, as in She provided the guests with water : this defines secundative alignment. A third possible alignment type, called double-object construction or neutral alignment, consists for both T and G to be aligned with P, as in English She gave them water (Malchukov et al. 2010).

Languages of the world differ greatly in their strategies for encoding three- participant verbs--the focus of the present volume. Some follow one alignment type consistently, whether indirective, secundative, or neutral. Other languages show mixed systems, with more or less regular alternation between alignment types, depending on various possible criteria. Relevant factors may have to do with the lexical semantics of the verb; or, say, with the morphological realisation of arguments (e.g. pronouns versus noun phrases). But in many cases, crucial parameters include the referential properties of these arguments, i.e. those semantic features that are inherent to the referents themselves: e.g. definiteness, specificity, number, animacy, person. The present study will precisely focus on Araki, a language in which the syntax of ditransitive alignment follows complex yet regular split patterns, depending on the referential properties of its arguments.

1.2 The case of Araki

Araki is an Oceanic (Austronesian) language spoken on the small island of the same name, off Espiritu Santo island in Vanuatu. With only eight speakers left, Araki is a moribund language: a number of social factors in the 20th century have resulted in Araki islanders shifting to the neighbouring language Tangoa (Vari-Bogiri 2005). Araki has been the object of a grammatical description, a dictionary and a collection of texts (Francois 2002, 2008). The present article builds on data collected by the author in 1997-1998 and 2011, with the last speakers of the language.

One of the particularities of Araki is the syntactic treatment it gives to different kinds of participants, both in its monotransitive and ditransitive constructions. The present paper will compare the encoding of Patients in two-participant constructions with the morphosyntactic treatment of Themes and Goals in three-participant constructions. I will highlight the contribution of two major parameters underlying these constructions: first, the nature of lexical verb classes; second, the referential properties of participants, including humanness, anaphoricity, and person.

In the discussion, I will use the terms Patient, Theme and Goal in accordance with the generalised role model proposed by Bickel and Nichols (2009) and Bickel (2010). According to this approach, a two-participant event defines an agent-like (A) and a non- agent-like or patient-like (P) participant. A three-participant event involves an A and two non-agent-like participants. For the latter, a basic distinction is assumed between a manipulated participant, the Theme (T), and a stationary participant, the Goal (G). …

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