Studies in Transitivity: Insights from Language Documentation
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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This paper explores transitivity-related features in Abui, a language with fluid semantic alignment (after Donohue and Wichmann 2008). Many known semantically aligned languages distinguish between two argument roles: actor and undergoer (e.g. Merlan 1985; Durie 1987; Mithun 1991, Donohue and Wichmann 2008 and papers therein). Abui system is unusual; it offers seven coding options for both single-argument and two-argument clauses. A rich set of semantic features (specificity, animacy, individuation, instigation, control, volition, affectedness, change, and change of state) drive the differential realisation of arguments. These features are known to be relevant to transitivity, differential argument marking, and split intransitivity. The paper presents a detailed analysis of these features, and explores their ranking, correlations, and clustering. Based on the Abui system, the paper characterises transitivity as a scalar and constructional phenomenon (refining Hopper and Thompson 1980; Rozwadowska 1988; and Næss 2007) applying only to a subset of two-argument clauses because there is no clear default two-argument construction that contains both actor and undergoer arguments.


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