Ergative alignment in Western New Indo-Aryan languages from a historical perspective

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This paper describes the syntactic development of three Western Indo-Aryan languages – Punjabi, Gujarati and Rajasthani. Historical changes in the ergative construction are described here as part of the changing syntactic systems of Western NIA languages. The perfect ergative system in Western New Indo-Aryan languages had developed by the time of Middle Indo-Aryan, when for the first time in the history of NIA the whole perfective domain was structured in accordance with the ergative pattern, implying ‘passive syntax without active counterpart’. The decline of ergativity in Western NIA went through three distinct stages. In the first of them the process of case merging resulted in the splitting of the consistently ergative case marking system into an ergative and a neutral one. The second stage is characterized by the introduction of special O-markers, which appeared first in the non-ergative and later in the ergative domain. As a result of this, there developed two more case marking systems – the accusative and the tripartite. The greatest divergence in syntactic behavior took place at the third stage of syntactic development, when each of the described languages selected its own ergative model. In contrast to the many different directions in the development of NPs’ coding properties, the controlling properties showed a great deal of similarity in the history of Western NIA.


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