Ergative Construction

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ergative Construction


a type of sentence construction in which the subject of a transitive verb is indicated by a special marker, and the marker of the direct object coincides with that of the subject of an intransitive verb.

The ergative construction is found in languages with an ergative structure, where it is contrasted to an absolute construction. In Avar, for example, di-tsa beche bachana (“I drove the calf) is an ergative construction; beche bachiana (“the calf arrived”) is an absolute construction.

The ergative construction is part of a broader ergative system, which is expressed in the lexicon by the division of verbs into transitive and intransitive and in the morphology by the distinction between ergative and absolute cases in nominal declensions or by two sets of personal markers in the conjugation of the verb. The ergative construction is found in Basque, in the Caucasian languages, and in many ancient Eastern and Indo-Iranian languages; it is also found in the Papuan, Australian, Chukchi-Kamchatka, and Eskimo-Aleut languages and many American languages.


Bokarev, E. A. Ergativnaia konstruktsiia predlozheniia: Sb. per. st. Moscow, 1950.
Meshchaninov, I. I. Ergativnaia konstruktsiia v iazykakh razlichnykh tipov. Leningrad, 1967.
Klimov, G. A. Ocherk obshchei teorii ergativnosti. Moscow, 1973.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In antipassive constructions the nominal element in function II assumes the form reserved for I = III in an ergative construction (absolutive), while the nominal element "originally" in function III either assumes an oblique case (mostly instrumental) or is left out entirely (as is compulsory in Avar).
Basque, for example, uses the ergative construction in encoding both definite and indefinite patient participant of a transitive situation, as in:
The Sumerian Ergative Construction. Or 44: 395-425.
If the agent is obligatory and part of the core, we have an ergative construction. Once it becomes optional, a passive interpretation becomes possible, but di constructions with no prepositionally marked agent remain ambiguous (as in [6a] and [6c]).
Backed-up by cross-linguistic evidence and some structural parallelisms, we tentatively hypothesise that Shawi ergative constructions originate in passives.
She elucidates the structure and form of ergative constructions in Indo-Aryan languages from a synchronic point of view, based on a broad cross-linguistic comparison of a range of different languages currently spoken on the South Asian subcontinent.
Also, the explanations in some chapters are much less in depth than in others; for example, Chapter 4 provides a very vague sketch of the exchange structure of the clause in Spanish, while, in Chapter 3, the complexity of description via the different sets of labels across processes for transitive and ergative constructions (which definitely does have the advantage of illuminating more subtle similarities and differences between the two languages at a more systemic level in terms of meaning potential and of paradigmatic realizations), has the disadvantage of being highly tangled even for the seasoned SF linguist, as also included is what the authors call a 'general' system to be able to compare with IFG'S ergative system, making for a myriad of labelling.
Other Cases in Buddhist Sanskrit") analyzes a sample text of the Mahasamghika-Lokottaravadins which displays the sort of syntactical variation that must have preceded the emergence of ergative constructions in Indo-Aryan.
On the middle and ergative constructions in English.
The ergative constructions exhibit a pattern of split ergativity based on a person hierarchy.
Tough or easy-to-please-sequences are problematic in Present-Day English given that they are ergative constructions where no movement from the subordinate into the main clause seems to apply.