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12 Valence classes

From the book A Grammar of Coastal Marind

  • Bruno Olsson


This chapter describes the basic valence classes in Coastal Marind, as defined by the use of participant indexing (Chapter 9) and Orientation prefixes (Chapter 11). The valence classes are ‘basic’ in the sense that they do not include verbs that are formed by derivational morphology, e.g. the Comitative k- prefix. (The valence patterns of derived verbs are described in Chapter 13). Some of the classes defined by comparing the behaviour of participant indexing and the Orientation system are quite marginal, and only contain one or a few members. For example, only one verb, kaɣanad ‘become low tide’ has been assigned to valence Class 0b (‘Avalent verbs with frozen Dative index’). Other patterns are much more frequent and can probably be considered productive, e.g. those of standard monotransitive verbs. A class such as 2b (monotransitive verbs with invariant stems) readily accommodates Malay loan verbs and is perhaps better described as an open frame than as a class with a finite set of members. For simplicity, however, I label all of the patterns described here as ‘classes’. The classes are exemplified with verbs that commonly (or always) occur with the specific Orientation marking and indexing pattern prescribed by their class. This is a rather drastic simplification, because it would be more accurate to describe for each verb in the language whether or not it has the potential to follow the different valence patterns, and if so, with what consequences for meaning. This enormous task will be left for future research, and an idealised version where most verbs are members of only one class is presented here. The classes to be described below are listed in Table 12.1. Sample verbs have been added to the table to illustrate the different classes, along with verb-specific role labels (e.g. ‘Fallee’ for the sole argument of ‘fall’).1 Each role label is linked to the corresponding index set and to the Orientation prefix that the participant triggers when it is expressed in the pre-verbal position. For example, the Cryer participant of ihw ‘be crying’ triggers the Neutral Orientation prefix when expressed pre-verbally, and is indexed by means of the Actor prefix set. Some verbs have an obligatory index (typically the default 3sg Actor prefix) but lack a corresponding participant, as when the verb is avalent (type 0 in the table). In such cases dashes are added to columns marking roles and Orientation prefixes. When a participant is not indexed on the verb, a dash is added to the Index set column.

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