Transitivity Discord Constructions: Unity and Diversity

Zúñiga, Fernando (2018). Transitivity Discord Constructions: Unity and Diversity (Unpublished). In: 51st Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea. Tallinn, Estonia. 30.08.2018.

The descriptive and typological literature has noted the existence of a clause type that has received a variety of labels (e.g., “semi-transitive,” Dryer 2007; “transitivity discord constructions [TDCs],” Margetts 2008). TDCs display morphological and syntactic features that place them formally and functionally between default intransitive and default transitive clauses in their respective languages. Formally, case marking and agreement patterns resemble those of intransitive clauses, but in addition to the agentive argument there arguably is a patientive argument in the clause (sometimes, with an unclear syntactic status). Functionally, such clauses often denote a low degree of individuation of the patientive argument (usually: non-specificity). Example (1) from Chintang (Tibeto-Burman, Nepal) illustrates the opposition between these clause types:

(1) Chintang (Schikowski 2013: 34, 39)
a. Kosi-beʔ maʔmi lums-e.
river-LOC person sink-IND.NPST[3SG.SBJ]
‘Someone sank in the river.’ (intransitive)
b. Debi-ŋa seu kond-o-ko.
D.-ERG apple look.for-3[SG].OBJ-IND.NPST[3SG.SBJ]
‘Debi is looking for the/an apple.’ (transitive)
c. Debi seu kon-no.
D. apple look.for-IND.NPST[3SG.SBJ]
‘Debi is looking for apples.’ (TDC)

Based on the extant literature on such phenomena, the present paper surveys some of the variation found with these constructions, both within and across language families, paying special attention to Oceanic, Algonquian, Sahaptian, and Tibeto-Burman languages. It claims that, while some languages may restrict the use of such clauses on a lexical basis (e.g., as in Senni and, partly, in Oceanic), it is more common to find them distributed on a grammatical basis. It also claims that such constructions are formally heterogeneous regarding their exact syntactic make-up, but that their functional homogeneity appears to be remarkably consistent.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Linguistics

UniBE Contributor:

Zúñiga, Fernando


400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 490 Other languages




Fernando Zúñiga

Date Deposited:

10 Sep 2018 14:03

Last Modified:

10 Sep 2018 14:03


Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback