November 23, 2013

Glossary

There’s not much here yet! But I will gradually add terms to this glossary.

Here’s an example:

Ergative – an ergative language treats the subject of an intransitive verb like the object of a transitive verb. An accusative language treats the subject of an intransitive verb like the agent of a transitive verb. English is an accusative language. For instance, in English, we would say “Pratish went away” and “Pratish ate the roti”. In the first sentence, the verb “went” is intransitive and the subject is “Pratish”. In the second sentence, the verb “ate” is transitive and the agent is “Pratish”. In both sentences, “Pratish” is treated the same, i.e. the verbs agree with “Pratish”. However, in Hindi, we would say “प्रतीश चला गया” and “प्रतीश ने रोटी खाई“. In the first sentence, the verb agrees with “प्रतीश“, whereas in the second sentence, the verb agrees with रोटी and प्रतीश is followed by a special postposition ने. The subject of the intransitive verb was treated differently than the agent of the transitive verb, but it was treated the same as the object of the transitive verb. Thus, Hindi is an ergative language. However, Hindi only exhibits ergative alignment in specific contexts, namely:

  • When the verb is not an exception
  • When the verb has either the perfect or perfective aspect
  • When the verb is transitive
  • When every verb in a compound verb requires ergative alignment