Published January 22, 2021 | Version v1
Presentation Open

Variable argument marking and the difference between general and particular linguistics (Handout)

  • 1. Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie


ABSTRACT: In this presentation, I will discuss a range of variable argument marking patterns, such as inverse marking in Ojibwe (Rhodes 1994), variable dative marking in Wolof (Becher 2005), person-based split ergativity in Nez Perce (Deal 2016), variable accusative case marking in Moro (Jenks & Sande 2017), among others.

In a recent paper (Haspelmath 2021a), I have proposed that many argument-marking splits fall under the following high-level generalization:

The role-reference association universal: Deviations from usual associations of role rank and referential prominence tend to be coded by longer grammatical forms if the coding is asymmetric.

We will see how many of the well-known patterns of variable argument marking are instances of this, and I will summarize the explanation that I propose, in terms of the efficiency theory of asymmetric coding (Haspelmath 2021b). One of the earliest general statements of (a version of) this explanation is found in Hawkinson & Hyman (1974).

In a second step, I will highlight the importance of the distinction between g-theories and p-theories (general theories of Human Language and of particular languages, respectively), which has often been neglected (Haspelmath 2021c). I will argue that if we make this distinction, we will gain a much better understanding of some of the persistent disparities between different methodological orientations in the field of general grammar. My claims are restricted to g-theories, and I make no p-theoretical claims, so there may be less tension between my proposals and those of others than might appear initially.



Files (316.9 kB)

Name Size Download all
316.9 kB Preview Download