The intransitive basis of Movima clause structure

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In Movima (unclassified, lowland Bolivia), the arguments of a transitive clause are basically encoded according to the position of their referents in a salience hierarchy, which includes deictic, semantic, and pragmatic levels. The participant roles of the arguments (actor or undergoer) are indicated by direct and inverse marking on the predicate. The argument whose referent is lower in the hierarchy is encoded in the same way as the single argument of intransitive clauses, and it also has a privileged syntactic status. This results in an unusual split-ergative alignment pattern: the direct construction, which is pragmatically unmarked, patterns ergatively, and the inverse construction patterns accusatively. I propose that the system can be accounted for by the syntactic similarity of nouns and verbs and the identical encoding of the possessor and the salient argument of a transitive clause. Both transitive and intransitive clauses may, therefore, have arisen from an intransitive equational construction with either a monovalent/nonpossessed or a bivalent/possessed predicate nominal.


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