On the establishment of ergative alignment during the Late Middle Indo-Aryan period

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I will argue that the Late Middle Indo-Aryan period (7–11th c.) was the crucial period for the establishment of ergative alignment as known from contemporary West Indo-Aryan languages (Bubenik 1998). I will demonstrate that the syncretism of case leading to the appearance of the absolutive case in the nominal system was caused by phonological change, while the way case marking alignment was distributed over the pronominal system can primarily be attributed to the effects of animacy. On the verbal side the increase in ergativity came as a consequence of the ultimate demise of the old aspectual forms. I will endorse a ‘contingency view’ of alignment (Dixon 1994, Haig 2008) which considers the increase in ergativity as a mere ‘by-product’ of the restoration by analytic means of the old aspectual triad.


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