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410Subject vs. object vs. agent (was Re: ÓNI, ONYE)

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  • Ivan A Derzhanski
    Apr 16, 2003
      David Kiltz wrote:

      > Why do you think they are not subjects ? "You go swimming with me".
      > While _me_ is in the oblique case here, its thematic role is certainly
      > that of subject (agent) of the sentence. (I.e. == "you and I go
      > swimming").

      Actually, its thematic role is that of coagent, which is not the
      same thing as agent. At any rate, I can't think of any language
      that would treat them alike.

      > I don't see what sense a direct object would make here.

      Many languages treat the objects of (some) prepositions as direct
      objects of verbs (for case marking purposes, that is). I can't
      think of any that would treat them as subjects, although there
      are languages (Maya comes to mind) in which the expression of
      (some) prepositional objects bears a similarity to conjugation
      (ie the expression of the subject in the verb).

      > languages may vary as to how they encode a prepositional
      > participant of a noun phrase (Semitic would use the genitive)

      Can you name any language(s) that would use the nominative (distinct
      from accusative)? (Don't say `Esperanto': that would be cheating.)

      > Or, with other words, I'm using "subject" and "object"
      > as functional (semantical) categories, not formal ones.

      I think that is counterproductive, however, for two reasons:

      (1) it creates a terminological gap between you and other people
      (such as Edouard) who correctly use those terms for grammatical
      functions but not for thematic roles, and the effect is that you
      see disagreement where there is none;

      (2) it obscures the mechanism of case marking, which is driven
      by grammatical (formal) functions in those languages that have
      them, not by thematic (semantic) roles.

      <fa-al-_haylu wa-al-laylu wa-al-baydA'u ta`rifunI
      wa-as-sayfu wa-ar-rum.hu wa-al-qir.tAsu wa-al-qalamu>
      (Abu t-Tayyib Ahmad Ibn Hussayn al-Mutanabbi)
      Ivan A Derzhanski <http://www.math.bas.bg/ml/iad/>
      H: cplx Iztok bl 91, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria <iad@...>
      W: Dept for Math Lx, Inst for Maths & CompSci, Bulg Acad of Sciences
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