Doranwen wrote:Ahh, so the passive/antipassive is markers on the verb itself (I so did not understand that part!) that allows the verbs to change the transitivity (valency?) from transitive to intransitive while still sticking with the rule that a verb has to have a subject.
Strictly speaking, only the bold part is true; you could have a passive and antipassive voice in a language that didn't require verbs to have subjects. A required subject is just one way in which they might be useful
You could certainly imagine a tripartite language that does
allow omitting arguments from transitive verbs. Maybe the following two statements are both grammatical:
1. na ruff-mi ak-in ketek
my dog-ERG you-ACC bite
my dog will bite you
2. na ruff-mi ketek
my dog-ERG bite
my dog bites (somebody)
So if you also have an antipassive voice construction:
3. na ruff-ta i-ketek
my dog-ABS ANTIPASSIVE-bite
my dog bites
Now you get to decide what that means. Why would a speaker choose to say (3) instead of (2)? What additional flavor, connotation, nuance does the antipassive voice convey in this language, which just leaving out the accusative argument would not?
(For example, maybe omitting the accusative argument like in (2) can be used to describe specific events, while the antipassive is used to describe general truths or ongoing states. Thus, (2) would mean My dog bit somebody, but I'm not mentioning who
, while (3) would mean My dog, as a general rule, bites.
Doranwen wrote:And then of course there are verbs like "eat" which can be either transitive or intransitive, right? Well, in English they do. "She ate" vs. "She ate the apple". Are there languages that require the "ate" from "She ate" to be marked antipassive, then? I can't think of an example the other direction, because English would toss in a dummy subject. The closest I can think of is something like "It hurts" which is really "It hurts me" with the "me" part being implied. That's a verb where you can leave out the agent (who or what is doing the hurting) but the patient is sort of required (someone or something is being hurt, and it doesn't make sense not to say who/what). Am I sort of accurate there? Or getting confused, lol?
Sounds like you've got it. I can't name a language that requires "She ate" to use the antipassive, but only because I don't know many languages by name that have an antipassive; I would be completely unsurprised to find a language with such a rule.
Doranwen wrote:In a tripartite system, then what does one do about impersonal verbs, like the classic "to rain"? It's sort of both passive and antipassive at the same time, because it has no arguments at all. Does it get a marker all its own, or no marker at all, or something I haven't thought of? Obviously, if this is my conlang, I can do whatever, but if I take that attitude to the extreme, it'll make no sense to anyone, much less myself, so I'm trying to at least understand how natural languages do it (when possible), or what might make the most sense.
Languages handle this in a variety of ways; English's approach of sticking in a meaningless subject is probably the weirdest I'm aware of. A few languages I know simply allow rain
as a verb with no subject. Japanese and Mandarin treat "rain" as the subject and add a verb, so instead of "It's raining" you say "Rain is falling."
Doranwen wrote:You mentioned "things that aren't cases"; what other options for expressing things like that are there, without resorting to prepositions?
Participial clauses are one high-mileage way. Spanish, being verb-framed instead of satellite-framed
, does things like this:
Salimos corriendo del cuarto.
we.exited run.PTCP of.the room
We ran out of the room.
Spanish happens to tag the noun with "of", but you could easily imagine a language that doesn't, and instead just places the noun as the participle's complement without any preposition. So what English does with the preposition out of
, Spanish instead encodes directly on the verb, salimos
. Or, if you want your language to still use "run" as the main verb in situations like this, you could do something like:
oss-ta mar tar-us harek
we-ABS room exit-PTCP run
We ran out of the room.
Here, "tarus" is a participial form of a verb (say, "tarek") meaning to exit
. This language handles what English would do with a preposition by allowing verbs in participial form to be dropped into phrases that already have main verbs, to provide extra meaning.
(There's interesting details to work out, here. I have the object of the participle, mar
, taking no case marker; so I would have to decide, in creating this language, how you know which argument of a participle-form verb the object plays. Is it the ergative? Accusative? Absolutive? Any of the three, and you just infer which one from context? Can you have more than one argument in a participial phrase? Are there, perhaps, different participle forms that you can pick from depending on which argument you want to use?)
A similar example might look like:
oss-ta ranu istel-us hospek
we-ABS family circle-PTCP speak
We talked about our families.
is a participle form of istelek
, meaning "to circle around". It, perhaps, gets paired frequently with hospek
to indicate topics of conversation.
Doranwen wrote:Regarding cases, the next challenge I found was how to express the differences between sentences such as the following:
A: He left without a horse.
B: He left without his horse.
Assuming that one uses the abessive case, how would I distinguish them? I would rather combine affixes to create one long word than have multiple small ones, but for sentence B you've got really three nouns, right? (counting pronouns as nouns) He, horse, him. Mind you, I rather liked the clitic idea, throwing shortened or special versions of the pronouns onto the verb to get rid of pronouns except for emphasis, so it would then turn out: he-left horse-ABE he-GEN
I'm not sure I see the conflict; even without marking person on the verb, what's to stop you from having something like this?
he-ABS left horse-ABE he-GEN
Doranwen wrote:So I guess what I'm asking is, I know that for possessive I'd use the genitive case; would there be a way to attach a possessive *pronoun*, sort of like the clitic on the verb, to the noun it's possessing?
Certainly; Arabic has possessive suffixes, for example.
Doranwen wrote:Is there a name for that? (Wikipedia had something called the "possessive affix", is that it?)
Yep. There is also the idea of possessive head-marking
, but that may carry more typological baggage than you want.
Doranwen wrote:How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-AC
(Note that I'm sticking with the tripartite system here, and I'm typing the case abbreviations just to keep things straight in my head--I can sort out the actual marking, whether it's ergative or absolutive that's unmarked. And obviously I can stick Alice after the verb, if I so choose; it appears that the only tripartite languages I can find anything about are either SOV or have no dominant word order.) Essentially keeping them both in the same case and letting one assume that it means they're both the "object" of her love. Is this something that's done? Is it doable? Or is there an existing standard way to do this?
There are many ways to do this; what you've described (where there is no overt morpheme tying Bob-ACC and Chris-ACC together) is "juxtaposition", which is one way that languages coordinate constituents.
You could also have a particle that you place with each coordinated noun:
Alice-ERG love also Bob-ACC also Chris-ACC
Or do something like Latin -que
, and have a suffix that you can add to a noun for coordination:
Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-ACC-also
And, like some others have said, you could consider how "free" you want your word order to be. Maybe placement of noun phrases relative to the verb is free, but coordinated noun phrases have to go together. (This would probably make the juxtaposition strategy more tenable in complex sentences.)
Doranwen wrote:Then I come to how to combine two sentences, and wonder if there I need a particle or whether an affix can be applied to the beginning of the second phrase (this may only be tangentially related to the case thing, but it's all mixed up in my mind). So if I had the sentence "Mary ate the apple and went into the house", this is as far as I can figure out how to mark: Mary-ERG ate apple-ACC "and"(?) went house-ILL. Are there any other ways to express the "and" in this sentence besides a particle/word like the English "and"?
Certainly. Different languages would do this differently, depending on what you intend it to mean. Did Mary start by eating an apple, and once finished, go into the house? Did she both eat an apple and go into the house, though not necessarily in that order? Did she go into the house while
eating an apple?
Some possibilities off the top of my head:
Mary-ERG first ate apple-ACC next went house-ILL
Mary-ERG ate apple-ACC went house-ILL
Mary-ERG eat-PTCP apple-ACC went house-ILL