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419Re: [Lambengolmor] Subject vs. object vs. agent (was Re: ÓNI, ONYE)

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  • David Kiltz
    May 14, 2003
      On Mittwoch, April 16, 2003, at 08:50 Uhr, Ivan A Derzhanski wrote:

      > 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.

      Coagent, aye, if you will. The *agent* part is what counts.

      >> 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).

      Here, I think, you mix terminology. Indeed, what you mean seems to be
      "in some languages prepositions govern the same *cases* as do objects
      (not only direct objects) of verbs". Sure, but that's due to the nature
      of the cases (and their origin) in the respective languages. Arabic,
      e.g. uses the genitive, the adnominal case par excellence.

      >> 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.)

      As soon as languages use prepositions like Indo-European and Semitic,
      no. Of course not, that's just the syntax of those languages. However,
      there is e.g. Korean: _tongmu-wa cengkwu-lul hata_ "Friend-with (subj.,
      nom.!) tennis-obj. marker plays" = He plays tennis with a friend
      (=subj., nom. case).

      >> 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:

      Functional then (which is partly semantical).

      > (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;

      No. I couldn't disagree more. I am speaking of grammatical functions
      (let's leave out thematic roles which, however, are, in a subset,
      identical). Edouard has exactly *not* used the terms correctly. Edouard
      et alii have equated the *form* ("accusative") with the function
      ("object") which is plain wrong. Even though, often, the form coalesces
      with that function. But *by no means always*. We are talking about two
      very distinct aspects of language here. To neglect this means to ignore
      the last 200 years of linguistics. Unfortunately, such inaccuracy is
      still current today, especially in the classics departments. We're not
      talking about terminology here but about understanding how language
      works. Again, who uses "object" as a synonym for "accusative/dative"
      cases fails to make a vital distinction. I will not trash crucial and
      unanimously accepted terminology and factual distinctions for something
      that is just wrong.

      This would be far worse than making an astronomer say that stars and
      planets are the same.

      > (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.

      That is exactly wrong. It makes you aware (if you will) of a
      distinction. A basic, real one. The *syntactical* functions "subject,
      object" are not the same as the formal categories of cases. You cannot
      ignore that if you want to work with language. Otherwise, you become
      completely circular: Direct Object = Accusative, Accusative = Direct
      Object. This is false. Still, I agree on the grammatical functions and
      syntactical functions. (Leave out the thematic roles). Anyway, I don't
      see how realisation of certain truths can obscure anything but a false
      belief. Indeed, it only makes clear the distinction of things
      distinct. I'm not even talking about thematic roles, which, of course,
      further clarify things and enable you to understand the innards of
      syntactical and case systems. Again, let's not talk about the agent.
      Let's talk about syntax. The accusative can indicate a direct object
      but doesn't always. How does that obscure anything ? I'm at a loss,
      this is the first time I hear that accurate cognition obscures
      something which it presupposes and explains...


      David Kiltz
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