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    Agentless Transitive Verbs in GeorgianKevin Tuite

    Anthropological Linguistics, Volume 51, Numbers 3-4, Fall and

    Winter 2009, pp. 269-295 (Article)

    Published by University of Nebraska PressDOI: 10.1353/anl.2009.0010

    For additional information about this article

    Access Provided by University of Montreal at 10/24/10 6:37PM GMT

    http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/anl/summary/v051/51.3-4.tuite.html

    http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/anl/summary/v051/51.3-4.tuite.htmlhttp://muse.jhu.edu/journals/anl/summary/v051/51.3-4.tuite.html
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    Agentless Transitive Verbs in Georgian

    KEVIN TUITE

    University of Montreal

    Abstract. The Georgian language has an unusual abundance of indirect(dative-subject) verbs. Most of these are intransitive, but several dozen areformally transitive. The focus of this article is on the subset of Georgian indirecttransitives that lack overt grammatical subjects (e.g., I shiver, lit., it makesme shiver). The semantic, morphological, and syntactic features of Georgianagentless transitives are presented and compared to those of similar verb typesfrom other languages. Of particular interest is a small group of bodily emana-tion verbs, such as yawn and belch, that are paired with syntactically inversedirect-transitive verb forms. A scenario is reconstructed for the origin of suchdirect-indirect pairings, which are otherwise unknown in Georgian.

    1. Introduction. Grammars and dictionaries of Georgian customarily classifyverbs by transitivity, voice, or both, in order to accommodate, at least partially,the complexities of verbal morphology and case assignment. As is well known,the Georgian case inventory includes an ergative case (also known as narra-

    tive case), assigned to the agents of certain verbs, but only when the latter arein the aorist or optative paradigms. As a consequence, descriptive grammars of Georgian characteristically feature tables such as the one below, in which theassignment of case to the principal clausal arguments is correlated with twoparameters: verb class, which Georgian linguists usually refer to as voice( gvari), and many non-Georgian linguists as conjugation; and tense-aspect-mode paradigms, grouped into three series according to stem form and case-assigment properties. The verb classification scheme formulated by A. Shanidzein his highly influential Fundamentals of Georgian Grammar (1953) separates

    those verbs that can assign the ergative from those that cannot, as well asapplying a cross-cutting distinction between medial (medioactive and medio-passive) and non-medial verb types.

    Whereas Shanidzes voiced-based verb-classification scheme and others likeit are used in grammatical works destined for native Georgian speakers, a con-siderable number of linguists writing for general (and therefore mostly non-Georgian) readerships reconfigure the classification to include a separate classof indirect or inverse verbs (Tschenkli 1958:44690; Aronson 1982a:33244), as in table 2. 1 As indicated by the choice of label, the most noteworthy fea-ture of indirect verbs, at least for native speakers of West-European languages,is the apparent inversion of the normal relation between case (and also agree-ment) marking and grammatical roles. The noun phrase assigned dative case by

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    270 ANTHROPOLOGICALLINGUISTICS 51 NOS. 34

    indirect verbs has subjectlike attributes, such as the capacity to govern reflexiveand reciprocal pronominals, as in (1).

    Table 1. Georgian Verb Classes and Case Assignment

    VOICE ( gvari) ACTIVE P ASSIVE MEDIOACTIVE MEDIOPASSIVEagent patient IO theme IO agent IO theme IO

    SERIESI (present,future,imperfect)

    NOM DAT DAT NOM DAT NOM DAT NOM DAT

    II (aorist,optative)

    ERG NOM DAT NOM DAT ERG DAT NOM DAT

    III (perfect,pluperfect)

    DAT NOM () NOM DAT DAT () NOM DAT

    NOTE: After Shanidze (1953). Columns in bold type correspond to arguments whose casemarking shifts according to series. IO = indirect object.

    (1) bavvebs k ertmanetik uqvart.children-PL-DAT each.other-NOM O3.VM-love-PLThe children love each other.

    Table 2. Aronsons Georgian Verb Classes (Conjugations)

    CONJUGATION 1. ACTIVE 2. P ASSIVE 3. MIDDLE 4. INDIRECTSERIES Subj. DO IO Subj. Obj. Subj. IO Subj. Obj.I. Present, Future NOM DAT DAT NOM DAT NOM DAT DAT NOMII. Aorist ERG NOM DAT NOM DAT ERG DAT DAT NOMIII. Perfect DAT NOM () NOM DAT DAT () DAT NOM

    NOTE: From Aronson (1982:344). Subj. = subject; Obj. = object; DO = direct object; IO =indirect object.

    The recognition of indirect verbs as a distinct class or conjugation strikesme as problematic for several reasons. First of all, it introduces a syntactic fea-turegrammatical subjecthoodinto what is otherwise a purely formal classi-fication of verbs according to stem morphology and case assignment. Second, thedative-subject intransitive verbs classified by Tschenkli, Aronson, and othersas indirect are formally quite heterogeneous (see the detailed study of Geor-gian indirect verbs by Cherchi [1997]), and the morphological properties they doshare, such as the shape of their future and aorist stems, do not exclude a small

    number of nominative-subject verbs. Finally, indirect syntax, as indicated bysubject properties accruing to an argument marked as a morphological object(according to case assignment and agreement), is by no means limited to indirect

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    verbs. A significant number of bivalent intransitive verbs (which Tschenkli andAronson group into class 2) assign syntactic subject privileges to their formalindirect objects. Furthermore, there are even a handful of transitive verbs (i.e.,class 1) characterized by indirect syntax, as in (2). As a consequence, I prefer toretain a classificational scheme such as Shanidzes, based on the cross-cuttingcriteria of ergative case assignment (classes 1 and 3) and the form of the future-aorist stem (classes 3+4 vs. 1+2), without consideration of syntactic criteria. 2

    (2) bavvebs k ertmanetik ainteresebt.children-PL-DAT each.other-NOM VM-interest- SM-PL The children are interested in each other. (lit., each other interests the children)

    The topic of this article is a subtype of Georgian indirect transitive verb thathas received little attention from linguists, the agentless transitive verb. Theagentless transitive verb is characterized by transitive morphology (most oftenthat characteristic of causative verbs: version vowel a3 and present-seriesmarker eb); but only one argument, formally marked as an object, is subcate-gorized. In other words, agentless transitive verbs look like ordinary Georgiantransitive verbs, but are not accompanied by overt grammatical subjects (B. Jorbenadze 1985:16465; N. Jorbenadze 2006:26; Melikishvili 2001:23940).Their one surface argument is assigned dative case and controls object agree-ment marking in the verb. Three examples of agentless transitive verbs aregiven in (3)(5)two of them from Georgian-language Internet chat groups, andone from a short story by a popular contemporary writer. The single argument of each of these verbs is marked by the first person singular object marker m.Each agentless transitive verb also ends with a third person singular subjectsuffix (present and subjunctive s, past indicative a), which is not cross-indexedto a surface noun phrase.

    (3) ertxel kimiis lekciaze da=mamtknara .once chemistry-GEN lecture-at PV=O1SG-VM-yawn-AOR .S3SGOnceI yawned at a chemistry lecture. (chat group Tbilisi forum)

    (4) dzalian a=civda, gairvebulma maisuric kivery got.cold-S3SG distressed- ERG T-shirt- NOM-also PRT

    amo=viime, makankalebda mainc. PV-S1-VM-stretch-AOR O1SG-VM-shiver-SM-IMP -S3SG nonethelessIt got very cold. Suffering (from the cold) I stretched my T-shirt downward, but still

    I was shivering . (Guram Doanivili Erti ramis siqvaruli )

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    (5) vkvdebi liv tailerze mabodebs masze!! S1-die-SM-PRS Liv Tyler-on O1SG-VM-craze-SM-S3SG her-onIm dying over Liv Tyler, I am crazy about her. (chat group Netgamer )

    Compare the syntactic frame of the agentless transitive verb axvelebsXcoughs in (6) to that of an ordinary causative verb, such as amg erebsXmakes Y sing in (7).

    (6) bis axvelebs. boy-DAT VM-cough-SM-S3SGThe boy is coughing.

    (7) megobari bis amg erebs.friend-NOM boy-DAT VM-sing-SM-S3SGA friend makes the boy sing.

    The verbs axvelebsand amg erebshave identical morphology, but whereasthe latter subcategorizes for both a dative-case noun phrase denoting the singerand a nominative-case argument denoting the person or situation that causesthe singer to sing, axvelebsis only accompanied by a single noun phrase,designating the one who coughs. At first glance, sentence (6) looks like it oughtto mean X makes the boy cough, but no X ever appears with the habitual mark-ers of a causative agent (nominative case in the present series of paradigms,ergative case in the aorist and optative). The author of (5) claims to be drivencrazy, and specifies the actress Liv Tyler as the proximal cause, but the nounphrase referring to her is marked by a postposition ( zeon, at), and does notoccupy the role of grammatical subject. For all intents and purposes, axvelebs,abodebs, and other agentless transitive verbs are monovalent. 4

    I have so far identified around three dozen agentless transitive verbs inModern Georgian, which are shown in table 3. In semantic terms, Georgianagentless transitive verbs appear to form a coherent group. A

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