Book details
Tuite, Kevin: Kartvelian Morphosyntax. Number agreement and morphosyntactic orientation in the South Caucasian languages
Author: Tuite, Kevin
Title: Kartvelian Morphosyntax. Number agreement and morphosyntactic orientation in the South Caucasian languages
Year: 1998
Publisher: Lincom Europa
Place of publication: München
Remark: (Studies in Caucasian Linguistics, 12); 264 pages. Abstract from the Linguist List ( The Kartvelian (South Caucasian) family comprises three languages: Georgian, Svan and Zan (Laz-Mingrelian). The protolanguage, Common Kartvelian, is believed to have been characterized by ergative-absolutive case marking and a verb with two sets of crossreferencing affixes (Set S [RsubjectS] and Set O [RobjectS]). These affixes manifest a nominative-accusative pattern in all the daughter languages, and probably did so in Common Kartvelian. In the course of four millenia the Kartvelian languages and their dialects have undergone changes in various morphosyntactic components: agreement (in particular, agreement for number), case assignment, and also in the internal structure of case paradigms. These changes are described in detail, dialect by dialect, in the dissertation. The conclusion I draw is that certain of these changes can be described in terms of drift toward or away from three types of morphosyntactic orientation. The term TorientationU is employed to describe the asymmetry of distribution of morphosyntactic privileges (obligatory presence in the clause, capacity to control agreement, etc) among clausal arguments. A given dialect will more or less closely approximate a particular orientation type, and some manifest characteristics of more than one type. Type A: split-absolutive orientation. In Old Georgian, the conservative dialects of the mountainous districts north of Tbilisi (Pshavian, Khevsurian, Tushetian), and the Glola subdialect of Mountain Rachan, the NP assigned the unmarked (NOM = nominative/absolutive) case and the NP controlling Set S agreement are the most prominent syntactically (i.e. can be singled out as grammatical subject). Because of the complex nature of Kartvelian morphosyntax, the grammatical subject does not bear any direct correspondence to a semantic category. Type B: nominative (semantic-subject) orientation. The morphosyntactic components of Modern Standard Georgian and the dialects of central and southwest Georgia show a clear trend toward extending greater prominence to the semantic subject (Sintr + Str). Type C: discourse-prominence orientation. In several dialects spoken in eastern and northwestern Georgia (Kaxetian, Ingiloan, Fereidanian; Lower and Upper Imeretian, Lechxumian, Rachan) morphosyntactic prominence is accorded to NPs characterized by the following features: (a) animate (especially human) reference; (b) presupposed, topical information. Path of orientational realignment in the Kartvelian dialects. The higher the position of an NP type on the hierarchy established by Silverstein [1976, 1981], the more likely it is to have higher syntactic prominence, all other factors being equal. The drift away from the more ancient Type A (split-absolutive) orientation toward either Type B or C followed this pathway Q and indeed it can be traced across the 1500 years for which literary Georgian is attested. When the range of arguments which can control number-agreement undergoes a shift, the NP types at the top of the Silverstein hierarchy (1st and 2nd person NPs, 3rd person pronominals) will acquire extended syntactic privileges before those NPs lower in the hierarchy.