Subjecthood of the agent argument in Estonian passive constructions

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This paper tackles diachronic changes in the choice between elative and adessivecase for marking the agent in Estonian periphrastic passive constructions intwo time periods. In 1800–1850, the main agent-marking device was the elativecase, whereas in the 1990s the elative was limited to inanimate actors, and theuse of the adessive had increased considerably. However, the adessive can onlybe used for marking volitional, animate agents. Changes are observed withregard to semantic constraints, subject properties of the adessive and elativeagents, and language contacts. Adessive arguments behave like non-canonicalsubjects in many constructions in Estonian, and the use of the adessive formarking agents in passives is strengthened by the possessive perfect constructionin Eastern Circum-Baltic languages.


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