ERIC Number: ED335877
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991
Reference Count: N/A
Are Cariban Languages Moving Away From or Towards Ergative Systems?
Derbyshire, Desmond C.
A study examines evidence concerning whether Amazonian languages have moved historically from earlier ergative-absolutive systems to nominative-accusative or mixed systems, or whether the change has been in the other direction. The main focus is on the Cariban language family. After a review of relevant literature, data from three of these languages (Macushi, Hixkaryana, and Panare) are presented. Two alternative hypotheses are defined, and evidence supporting each is offered. Subsequently, evidence from other Cariban languages and other Amazonian language families is discussed. It is concluded that the languages have moved from systems that are purely ergative in both nominal case marking and verb agreement patterns, probably very old, to mixed systems where in main clauses the core nominals are not marked at all and the verb agreement patterns are a mixture of nominative and absolutive, based on an agentivity-person hierarchy. Subordinate clauses take the form of nominalizations that retain characteristics of the older pure ergative system. A 35-item bibliography is included. (MSE)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Amazonian Languages; Ergativity
Note: In: Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session, Volume 35, p1-29, 1991; see FL 019 329.