Ergativity and the object-oriented representation of verb meaning

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There is an interesting parallelism between the representation of one- place and two-place operations in object-oriented programming and case marking in ergative languages. The object-oriented approach has proven to be highly suc- cessful in computational system design and analysis. One of its peculiarities is to define operations within the class of the objects which are their main arguments. More specifically, operations that correspond to intransitive verbs are encoded in the class which corresponds to the subject NP, and operations that correspond to transitive verbs are encoded in the class that corresponds to the NP of the direct object. In ergative languages these NPs are marked by absolutive case. We discuss a number of semantic phenomena related to ergativity that show that conceptual representation of word meaning follows the object-oriented paradigm.


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