Studies in Transitivity: Insights from Language Documentation
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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In this paper I discuss transitivity in Murrinh-Patha, a non-Pama-Nyungan polysynthetic language from northern Australia. I survey the range of bivalent clauses in Murrinh-Patha and their morphosyntactic properties, and consider their analysis in terms of definitions of transitivity in the cross-linguistic literature. I argue that syntactic definitions of transitivity, while compatible with the Murrinh-Patha data, are empirically unrevealing since they provide little account for the varying morphosyntactic properties of different bivalent constructions. Instead, I show that the morphosyntax of bivalent constructions in Murrinh-Patha is sensitive to the semantic features of the participants, supporting a prototype approach to transitivity (such as those proposed by Hopper and Thompson 1980 and Næss 2007).


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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