Studies in Transitivity: Insights from Language Documentation
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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This paper presents those areas of Iatmul morphosyntax that are relevant to a discussion of transitivity. Evidence for the syntactic status of subject and direct object as core arguments comes from S=O ambitransitive verbs, S/O pivots in complex predicates, switch reference, relative clause formation, agreement marking, and obligatory focus marking. In contrast, there is no evidence for the concept of an “indirect object”. Other relevant phenomena to be explored are case marking, verbs whose morphological make-up correlates with transitivity, zero anaphora, and coalescent nouns in complex predicates. In summary, if languages can be characterized by the extent to which they have grammaticalized the control cline between actor and undergoer, Iatmul can be located in the middle field, with a clear subject category, and a more variable direct object function, whose instantiation is primarily determined by semantic and pragmatic factors.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Iatmul; linguistic typology; Papuan; transitivity; valency
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