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Moving the actants: Degrees of agency in Yimas

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This paper deals with morphosyntactic splits in the coding of actancy in transitive and intransitive sentences. In transitive sentences the splits are motivated by particular actant/person constellations and their interplay with modality, especially with negation. In intransitive sentences the splits are motivated by modality alone. All the different actancy coding procedures and intricate split patterns are explained here in terms of semantic motion, that is, the local increase or decrease of agency/salience properties of the actants involved. Thus motion manifests itself as promotion or demotion; this leads to a dynamization of the language-specific nominal hierarchy. Semantic motion is not bound to a particular type of alignment since it occurs with accusative as well as ergative coding behavior. The grammar of Yimas illustrates a broad variety of motional procedures rich enough to discuss the typologically useful notion of motion on the basis of one single language.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Munich

Publication date: September 1, 2002

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