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Liminal Morphosyntax Georgian Deponents and Their Kin (Tuite)

Liminal Morphosyntax Georgian Deponents and Their Kin (Tuite)

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Published by: Ricardo Ventosinos on Oct 31, 2011
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Liminal morphosyntax: Georgian deponents and their kin.
Kevin TuiteUniversité de Montréal
1 Deponents and deponency
The term ‘deponent’, once restricted to the specialized jargon of Latin grammar,has come to be used a bit more frequently in the linguistic literature of the pastfifteen years or so. In traditional Latin descriptive grammar, deponents comprise“une catégorie de verbes actifs pour le sens, mais qui paraissent se dépouiller (
deponere
) de la forme active attendue, pour revêtir la forme passive” (Monteil1970: 261). Verbs such as
 sequor 
“I follow”,
agricolor 
“I cultivate land, practiceagriculture”,
 pergraecor 
“I live in the ‘Greek manner’ (as understood by theRomans, i.e. feasting and pleasure-seeking)”, etc. are distinguished from regular active and passive verbs by their hybrid morphology — the finite paradigms are passive, whereas the present and future participles are formed as for active verbs — and the impression many Latinists have had that deponents are “passive inform but active in meaning”, as the school grammars say. Latin deponents do notordinarily have active counterparts, a trait that has brought them to the attention of researchers exploring the morphology, semantics and syntax of middle voice, or of what Klaiman (1988) calls ‘basic voice systems’, as contrasted to ‘derivedvoice’ (active-passive) systems. Latin does not have a middle voice as such, butKemmer (1993: 22) juxtaposes Latin deponents to the
media tantum
of Greek andother basic-voice languages, these being formally middle verbs which do notcontrast with actives formed from the same stem. From a diachronic perspective,Kemmer’s equation of deponents and media tantum seems justifiable, since the personal endings of the Latin passive do go back in part to the IE middle diathesis(Szemerényi 1996: 242-243), and the roots of some Latin deponents are cognateto Greek and Sanskrit media tantum (e.g. Latin
 sequor,
Greek 
hepomai
, Sanskrit
 sacate
“follow” < IE
*sek 
w
-
). On the other hand, the Romans themselves are notknown to have compared Latin deponents to Greek middles (Flobert 1975: 577).In recent, as yet unpublished work, Corbett (1999, p. c.) has extended the reach of the term ‘deponency’ to accommodate any non-typical use of inflectionalmorphology, whether or not it has anything to do with verbs or voice. Russian
 ž 
ivotnoe
“animal”, a syntactic noun which declines like an adjective, would beconsidered a deponent word by this definition. I concur with Corbett’s criticism of many past uses of the deponency concept, which tend to emphasize certain traitsof Latin deponents while downplaying others. Some definitions focus onsemantics (“passives with active meaning”, although the latter criterion is rarelyaccorded a rigorous definition); others highlight the lack of an active counterpart,or the hybrid nature of Latin deponent paradigms (Flobert 1967: xi). In thediscussion to follow, I will limit the use of the term ‘deponent’ to its traditionalterritory, but with a more narrow definition. Consider the case of media tantum.Middle voice is the marked category relative to active voice. Descriptions of thesemantics of middle verbs characteristically take the corresponding actives as thestarting point, and describe the special function of the middle as one of foregrounding the effect of the action upon the subject (‘subject-affectedness’;Kemmer 1993, 1994), the subject’s particular involvement or ‘interiority’ in the process denoted by the verb (Benveniste 1950), or that “a process is taking placewith regard to, or is affecting, happening to” the subject (Gonda 1960: 66), etc. In
 
 
many languages, middle diathesis can signal reflexive or reciprocal meaning, thatthe direct object of a transitive verb is somehow within the subject’s sphere(possession, body part), or that the subject acts in his or her own interest. Somemiddles permit passive or non-causative readings (as opposed to the causativemeaning of the corresponding actives). In terms of the parameter of ‘degree of distinguishability of participants’, Kemmer (1994: 209) situates middle andreflexive ‘situation types’, where they are marked by distinct morphology, in thezone between one-participant and two-participant events — both of which areassociated with the active voice (Kemmer 1993: 202). What thesecharacterizations of middle semantics have in common is that they describe themiddle as a sort of ‘transitive-minus’ [
TRANS— 
], i.e. middle verbs arecontrasted to their active-transitive counterparts as lower in such parameters astransitivity, valence or distinguishability of participants.
1
 Compared to the above construction type, the Latin deponent is not so much a‘transitive-minus’ as a ‘passive-plus’ [
PASS+
]. The Latin
 –r 
paradigms arefundamentally passive, not middle, in meaning. For the large majority of verbswhich form both active and passive paradigms, the latter signal the demotion of the agent from subject position (Risselada 1991; Kurzová 1993: 160-1). For the purposes of this paper, I will limit the use of ‘deponent’ to PASS+ verbs in particular, defined as verbs with
PASSIVE MORPHOLOGY
(or ‘diathesis’, followingthe usage of Klaiman 1988 and Duhoux 2000) but
ACTIVE SYNTAX
. Formalfeatures are qualified as markers of passive diathesis if — in a clear majority of cases — they signal a syntactic transformation which promotes a non-actor argument to grammatical subject position and/or demotes the actor argument. For at least some Latin deponents, their active syntax is confirmed by the attestationof active-diathesis counterparts which assign the same case role to their subjects(
adulor 
“I flatter obsequiously, like a dog” and
adulo
“I fawn, flatter” (Flobert1975: 104-5, 287)).
2 Kartvelian TRANS— and PASS+ verb types
 The Georgian language, and to varying degrees, its sister Kartvelian languagesLaz-Mingrelian and Svan, have both of the construction types described above. Inorder to understand their structure and how each contrasts with other verb forms,it is important to take in account the following grammatical categories, which inall likelihood go back to the Proto-Kartvelian ancestral language:(a). A fundamental distinction between two classes of verbs: those that assignergative case in the aorist series of tense-aspect paradigms (case-shifting, or ‘active’ verbs), and those that do not (non-case-shifting, or ‘passive’ verbs). Thiscategory has been likened to voice by Georgian linguists (e.g. Shanidze 1953).(b). An independent grammatical category known as ‘version’ (Geo.
kceva
),marked by a vowel morpheme placed between the person prefix and the verb root.The case-shifting and non-case-shifting verb classes can be further subdivided by
1
Not discussed here, for reasons of space, are agentless transitives, such as Latin
me pudet 
“I amashamed” or Georgian
m-a-k’ank’al-eb-s
“I am overcome by trembling”; lit. “X (fear, chill,illness, etc.) makes me tremble”, which are also of the transitive-minus type. These are transitiveverbs which are not accompanied by an overt subject NP. Johanna Nichols (p. c.) has detectedagentless transitives, which she calls ‘deponents’, in Chechen and Ingush.
 
 
lexical aspect [telic vs. atelic], as signalled by the morphology of the future-tenseform, which is strongly correlated with this distinction. Verbs belonging to thetelic classes, which will be designated simply ‘active’ and ‘passive’, typicallyform their future tense by the addition of a perfectivizing preverb to the presentstem. Verbs belonging to the two atelic classes, designated ‘medioactive’ and‘mediopassive’, have future and aorist stems different from the present stems, acharacteristic mark of which is the version vowel
i-
or 
e-
.(1)
M
ODERN
G
EORGIAN VERB CLASSES
(
VOICES
):
case-shifting non-case-shifting 
[assigns ergative in aorist] [cannot assign ergative]
FUTURE
=
PRESENT
(
ACTIVE
)
a-
 š 
iv-eb-s
(
PASSIVE
)
h-
 š 
iv-d-eb-a
 +
PREVERB
: “makes sb/sthg go hungry” “becomes hungry”
FUTURE
:
mo=a-
 š 
iv-eb-s
 
FUTURE
 
mo=h-
 š 
iv-d-eb-a
 
FUTURE STEM
(
MEDIOACTIVE
)
 š 
im
 š 
il-ob-s
(
MEDIOPASSIVE
)
h-
 š 
i-a
 
PRESENT STEM
: “goes hungry, on hunger strike” “is hungry”
FUTURE
:
i-
 š 
im
 š 
il-eb-s
 
FUTURE
:
e-
 š 
i-eb-a
 
2.1 Subjective version, middle voice and Kartvelian ‘media tantum’
The Kartvelian category of version has been the object of intensive discussion inthe specialist literature, including several detailed treatments in German andEnglish (Deeters 1930; Schmidt 1965; Boeder 1968; Aronson 1982). FollowingShanidze (1925/1981), Georgian linguists distinguish the following types of version: ‘subjective’ (Geo.
 sataviso
“for oneself”, prefix -
i
-); ‘objective’ (Geo.
 sasxviso
“for someone else”, prefix – 
i/u
-); ‘neutral’ (Geo.
 saarviso
“for no one”, prefix – 
a/Ø
-).
2
Shanidze (1953: 362-363) and Schmidt (1965) pointed out theconsiderable semantic overlap of the Georgian subjective version and the ancientGreek middle voice. Compare the following Greek middle verbs and their Georgian near-equivalents in the subjective version:(2) Greek middle diathesis and Georgian subjective versionGREEK MIDDLE DIATHESIS GEORGIAN SUBJECTIVE VERSION
louo
-mai 
“I wash myself”
da-v-
-ban
 
“I will wash my (hands, self)”
hetoimazo-
mai 
“I prepare myself,
mo-v-
-mzad-eb
“I will prepare for myself” prepare for myself”
hapto
-mai 
“I grasp, fasten myself to”
da-v-
-b-am (tavs)
“I will bind myself”
kikhra
-mai 
“I borrow”
v-
-sesx-eb
“I will borrow”
ôneo-
mai 
“I buy”
v-
-q’id-i
“I will buy”
orkheo-
mai 
 
“I dance”
v-
-cek’v-eb
“I will dance”Descriptions of the semantic correlates of subjective version are strongly similar to those employed by Indo-Europeanists with respect to the middle voice.According to Vogt (1938: 8), the Georgian subjective version signals “un rapportde possession entre le sujet et le régime direct, ou bien que l’action se fait au profit du sujet en faisant du régime direct la propriété du sujet”. Shanidze’sdefinition is similar: Version “indicates the relation, in terms of possession or 
2
The ‘superessive’ (
 sazedao
“for [that] upon, on top”, prefix
a
-), which typically indicates thesuperposition or affixing of one object onto another (e.g.,
mi-
a
-k’er-eb-s
“sews sthg
onto sthg
”),was treated by Shanidze (1953: 382-5) as the mark of a distinct category called ‘situation’.

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