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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 24, 2023

Causatives in Classical Armenian

  • Petr Kocharov ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Folia Linguistica


This paper presents the results of a study of the five causative formations of Classical Armenian. It focuses on the correspondence between the morphosyntactic complexity of causatives and the autonomy of the causee, which is specified based on the semantic type of the noncausal base verb. The correspondence proves to be incomplete as witnessed by areas of overlap in the lexical distribution of base verbs. While the competing lexical and synthetic causatives reflect the patientive and non-patientive readings of the first argument of the noncausal verb, respectively, the competing synthetic and analytic causatives rather express the contrast in the degree of affectedness of the causee, which does not fully depend on the semantic properties of the noncausal predicate. The semantic types of causation better correlate with morphosyntactic complexity than with segmental length in Classical Armenian.

1 Introduction

Classical Armenian, the oldest recorded variety of Armenian attested since the 5th century, expresses causation with lexical and synthetic causatives as well as three analytic constructions built with the auxiliary verbs aṙnem ‘make’ and tam ‘give’.[1] The analytic constructions comprise aṙnem + noun/adj. (make-factitive), aṙnem + infinitive (make-causative) and tam + infinitive (give-causative).[2] The description of these causative expressions in standard grammars of Classical Armenian remains incomplete. The present paper is a contribution to their study within a typologically oriented framework.

As the only productive valency-increasing derivational category of Classical Armenian, the synthetic causative has received the most attention out of the abovementioned causatives in previous scholarship (see Abrahamyan 1976: 179–186; Aṙak‛elyan 2010: 161–168; Jensen 1959: 36; Meillet 1913: 26; Minassian 1996: 76–77; Tumanyan 1971: 372–377). However, the existing accounts offer only a very general description of its lexical distribution and function. For example, Tumanyan (1971: 373) reports that the synthetic causative can be derived from the majority of transitive and intransitive verbs, cf. aršawim intr. ‘gallop’ → causative aršawecʽucʽanem ‘make gallop’, iǰanem intr. ‘go down’ → causative iǰucʽanem ‘bring down’, yišem tr. ‘remember’ → causative yišecʽucʽanem ‘make remember’. This generalization overlooks important constraints on the formation of the synthetic causative and its relation to other types of causatives. The cited grammars offer an even more cursory account of the analytic causative constructions. Characteristically, Minassian (1996: 77, 207–208) describes the make-causative as expressing causative meaning (“sens factitif”) in contrast to the give-causative expressing causative meaning with a permissive connotation (“sens factitif, permettre, autoriser”) but gives no further details on their lexical distribution, use, or relative productivity.

Aside from descriptive grammar, the study of Classical Armenian causatives is furthermore relevant for the discussion of cross-linguistic generalizations on the correspondence between the formal and semantic parameters of causatives (see Dixon 2000; Haspelmath 2016; Shibatani and Pardeshi 2002). The present paper aims to contribute to the discussion of the Classical Armenian evidence in the cross-linguistic perspective.

2 Causatives and the autonomy of the causee

The semantics of causation constitutes a complex domain with a plethora of parameters concerning the causing and caused sub-events and the nature of their relation, see Beavers and Koontz-Garboden (2020: 48–55) and Levshina (2022) for discussion. The present paper will address only some of those parameters and examine a possible correspondence between the formal type of the causative, on the one hand, and the semantic properties of the causee in relation to those of the first argument of the base verb, on the other. One of the key parameters, discussed in previous scholarship, is the degree of autonomy of the causee. This parameter is crucial for predictions that the more autonomous the causee, the more effort is required on part of the causer to initiate its change of state and the more complex the causative expression tends to be in languages that have multiple ways to express causation. Thus, Dixon (2000: 61–78) discusses the influence of control, volition, and affectedness of the causee on the morphosyntactic complexity of the causative. Similarly, Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002: 8) argue that the degree of volition of the causee is one of the two main parameters, along with spatiotemporal overlap, that determines the coding complexity of a causative. The scale of causative meanings characterized by different degrees of the causee’s autonomy can be grasped in terms of the direct-indirect causation scale; see Levshina (2022) on the semantic parameters associated with the direct-indirect distinction.

The autonomy of the causee partly depends on the semantic type of the base noncausal verb. Based on the results of the Valency Patterns Leipzig (ValPaL) project, Wichmann (2015: 171–172) concludes that verbs describing actions that are amenable to external control (e.g. ‘laugh’, ‘fear’, ‘sink’) more easily undergo causativization than verbs that describe actions of relatively more autonomous volitional participants which are less easily controlled by an external agent (e.g. ‘send’, ‘say’, ‘teach’). This explains in particular why ingestive and cognition verbs (‘eat’, ‘know’) belong to the transitive verbs which, according to the dataset of ValPaL, most often undergo causativization (Wichmann 2015: 171). Amenability to external control correlates with the parameter of affectedness of the first argument characteristic of many intransitive and transitive base verbs of the semantic middle domain; a participant that is typically affected by an external stimulus or one’s own action is also prone to be affected by an external agent (see Kemmer 1993; Næss 2007; Shibatani 2002: 6).

The correlation between the semantic type of the base verb, the autonomy of the causee, and morphosyntactic complexity can be responsible for the lexico-syntactic distribution of competing causatives. Thus, increasing autonomy of the agent of the base verb correlates with increasing syntactic transitivity on the one hand (see Tsunoda 1985; Malchukov 2015, Comrie et al. 2015) and with the morphosyntactic complexity of (or else a constraint on) the derived causative, on the other (Haspelmath 2016). This correlation is confirmed by the evidence of languages with synthetic and analytic causatives, which are more likely to be derived from intransitive and transitive verbs, respectively (Nedyalkov and Silnitsky 1973: 7; Shibatani 2002: 5; Wichmann 2015: 171).

The aforementioned interrelated parameters have been presented by Haspelmath (2016) in a set of cross-linguistic generalizations on the formation of causatives. The principal generalization (Universal 1), on which a series of additional ones is based, reads: “[t]he higher the noncausal meaning of a causal-noncausal pair is on the spontaneity scale, the longer and the more analytic any causative marker on the causal verb form will be” (Haspelmath 2016: 38). Haspelmath’s spontaneity scale model includes the following types of meanings: agentive transitive (an agent impinges directly on a patient, e.g. ‘break’) > unergative = agentive intransitive (volitional actions that are not directed at another participant, e.g. ‘walk’) > unaccusative = anticausative[3] (subdivided into “automatic” processes that are easily construed as occurring on their own, e.g. ‘freeze’, and “costly” processes that typically involve some energy input, e.g. ‘split’) > agentful = patientive (processes which have an agent-oriented manner component in their meaning and tend not to occur without an external agent, e.g. ‘be cut’). The degree of spontaneity decreases from left to right, see Figure 1. A series of additional generalizations, based on Universal 1, have also been proposed and will be discussed in Section 4.

Figure 1: 
The spontaneity scale (Haspelmath 2016: 34).
Figure 1:

The spontaneity scale (Haspelmath 2016: 34).

Furthermore, Haspelmath argues that references to morphosyntactic complexity (e.g. synthetic vs. analytic) can be omitted in the formulations of the universals and that it is the phonological length alone that correlates with the position of the noncausal meaning on the spontaneity scale, which in turn is ultimately determined by the frequency of use (Haspelmath 2016: 54–55). According to this hypothesis, verbs with a higher autonomy of the subject occur less frequently in a causative context and therefore receive more overt coding. Haspelmath thus claims that there is a straightforward correspondence between the semantic type of the base verb and the direct-indirect distinction of causatives because “causatives of unergatives and transitives must express indirect causation (almost by definition), and only causatives of unaccusatives can express direct causation” (Haspelmath 2016: 46).

In order to scrutinize to what extent the Classical Armenian evidence conforms to the aforementioned cross-linguistic generalizations, its five causative formations will be specified with respect to their formal features (morphosyntactic complexity and phonological length), to the semantic type of causation, and to the semantic role of the first argument of the base verb. The last parameter will be assessed based on four major types of semantic roles: patient (a participant that corresponds to the first argument affected by an external agent), undergoer (a participant that corresponds to the first argument, the state of which changes spontaneously), experiencer (a participant that corresponds to the first argument, which is affected by a stimulus), agent (a participant that corresponds to the first argument, initiating a volitional action directed at itself or another participant).

These semantic roles of base verbs can be arranged in order of their increasing autonomy on the spontaneity scale: patient > undergoer > experiencer > agent. The relative autonomy of undergoer and experiencer is not straightforward, given that there is no clear-cut semantic boundary between anticausative verbs with an animate undergoer and experiential verbs of sensation and emotion (Kemmer 1993: 128). Whenever the stimulus is expressed, the experiential reading is clear in both the base verb and its derived causative. A contextual reading becomes ambiguous when the stimulus is not expressed, however. Yet given that the experiencer typically corresponds to a sentential participant which can, at least for some predicates, control the experiential event to some extent, it shares more semantic features with agent than undergoer and can therefore be allocated between the two on the spontaneity scale. Such a relative position of the semantic roles agrees with the relative position of the semantic types on the semantic map proposed within the VaLPaL project (Comrie et al. 2015: 8).

The morphosyntactic features and lexical distribution of the five Classical Armenian causative formations are described in Section 3, while their comparative analysis in terms of a causative continuum is provided in Section 4.

3 Morphosyntactic coding and lexical distribution

The personal forms of the Classical Armenian verb express five synthetic tenses (the present, imperfect, aorist, present subjunctive, and aorist subjunctive) and a number of analytic tenses, the most productive of which are the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect. In the synthetic tenses, valency alternations are coded on the verb by means of inflectional endings are often in conjunction with a productive valency-increasing suffix -oycՙ- (or its rare variants -oys- and -oyz-). The inflectional types are redistributed among four productive conjugations and a defective verb gom ‘exist’. Besides coding tense, number and person, the endings either express oppositional voice (active vs. mediopassive) or are indifferent to voice, in which case one form is used both transitively and intransitively (the latter type is conventionally termed ‘labile’ in the present paper; cf. Letuchiy 2009). Each verbal paradigm combines both oppositional voice and labile forms, although their ratio varies across the conjugations (see Table 1 for the endings of the present, imperfect and aorist in the four productive conjugations). Note that the use of the oppositional voice is lexically determined only in the present, whereas the imperfect is invariably labile and the aorist invariably distinguishes the two voices except for the 1st person plural (see Bubenik [1997] for a concise overview of the Classical Armenian verbal system).

Table 1:

Active, mediopassive, and labile inflections in the present and aorist.

e-conj. i-conj. a-conj. u-conj.
prs ind act mp lab lab
1sg -em -im -am -um
2sg -es -is -as -us
3sg -i -ay -u
1pl -emkʽ -imkʽ -amkʽ -umkʽ
2pl -ēkʽ -ikʽ -aykʽ -ukʽ
3pl -en -in -an -un

impf ind lab lab lab
1sg -ei -ayi -ui
2sg -eir -ayir -uir
3sg -ēr -ayr -oyr
1pl -eakʽ -ayakʽ -uakʽ
2pl -eikʽ -ayikʽ -uikʽ
3pl -ein -ayin -uin

aor ind act mp act mp act mp
1sg -i -ay -i -ay -i -ay
2sg -er -ar -er -ar -er -ar
3sg -aw -aw -aw
1pl -akʽ (lab) -akʽ (lab) -akʽ (lab) -akʽ (lab) -akʽ (lab) -akʽ (lab)
2pl -ēkʽ -aykʽ -ēkʽ -aykʽ -ēkʽ -aykʽ
3pl -in -an -in -an -in -an

Given that all of the five causative constructions discussed in the present paper involve personal verb forms, the syntactic transitivity is coded by the active voice in part of every causative paradigm. This common feature aside, the constructions differ in formal and lexico-syntactic properties, which are discussed in Sections 3.13.5, and compared in Section 4. The survey of the synchronic evidence is based on the following data. The account of the lexico-syntactic properties of synthetic causatives (Section 3.2.2) is based on the complete list of synthetic causatives attested in the Classical Armenian Bible, and their semantic classification published as a supplement to Kocharov (2023). Given the significantly lower text frequency of the analytic causatives and the potential influence of Greek in the Armenian translation of the Bible, the corpus for the study of the analytic causative has been extended with two non-translated early classical texts, De Deo by Eznik Kołbacʽi and The History of the Armenians by Agathangełos (see the supplementary material at Given that the analytic factitive construction is typical for a specific semantic type of predicates (Section 3.3), it is characterized in general terms without recourse to quantitative data. Due to the lack of a formal difference and the uncertainty of semantic contrasts between lexical causatives and transitive base verbs, as discussed in Section 3.1, lexical causatives will also be characterized without quantitative data; the task of delimiting the two functional types in a comprehensive sub-corpus of early Classical Armenian and establishing the relative frequency of the different semantic types of lexical causatives goes beyond the scope of this paper.

3.1 Lexical causatives

There is no formal distinction between base verbs expressing valency alternations of different semantic types, e.g. the active-passive and causative-anticausative alternations, which are both coded with a combination of forms expressing oppositional voice and labile ones, cf. act. aṙn-ē tr. ‘(s)he makes smth.’ versus mp. aṙn-i intr. ‘smth. is done’ (active-passive) next to act. hal-ē tr. ‘(s)he melts smth.’ versus mp. hal-i intr. ‘it melts’ (causative-anticausative). In the case of suppletive transitivity pairs, the root takes part in the expression of the formal contrast along with the inflection, cf. active mt-an-ē (go_in-ipfv-3sg) intr. ‘(s)he enters’ versus active muc-an-ē (bring_in-ipfv-3sg) tr. ‘(s)he brings in’. The case assignment of lexical causatives complies with the default transitive and ditransitive patterns as indicated in Table 2, cf. (1) and (2).

Table 2:

Case assignment of lexical causatives.

Syntactic type nom acc dat
Transitive A O
causer causee
Ditransitive A O R
causer affectee causee
ew halescʽē z=nosa ibrew z=oski
and melt.aor_sbj.3sg.act def=they.acc like def=gold.acc
‘… and He shall melt them like gold…’
(Mal. 3:3)
c῾uc῾anē nma z=amenayn t῾agaworut῾iwns ašxarhi
show.3sg.act he.dat def=every world.gen
‘… shows Him all the kingdoms of the world…’
(Mt. 4:8)

It is notoriously difficult to draw a clear-cut semantic distinction between regular agentive transitive verbs and lexical causatives since they refer to a caused change of quality or state of the patient-like participant or an affected causee, respectively (see Dixon 2000: 38–41; Kemmer and Verhagen 1994: 118–119; Shibatani and Pardeshi 2002: 87–88). One criterion that can be applied to differentiate the two types is whether an agent-like participant is added as a result of a valency alternation (causative alternations) or the alternation only involves re-coding of the arguments (the active-passive alternation). In this paper, the term ‘lexical causative’ is applied to the former type when it is expressed by one lexical morpheme or two lexical morphemes in complementary distribution.

In Classical Armenian, lexical causatives constitute valency pairs with noncausal verbs, the first argument of which can be an undergoer (e.g. halim intr. ‘melt’/halem tr. ‘melt’; meṙanim intr. ‘die’/spananem ‘kill’), experiencer (e.g. tesanem tr. ‘see’/cʽucʽanem ‘show’), or agent (e.g. mtanem intr. ‘enter’/mucanem ‘bring in’). The first of these semantic types is relatively often expressed by the lexical causative. Thus, 16 out of the 31 causative-anticausative pairs in the questionnaire suggested in Haspelmath (1993) are expressed by base verbs and can be primarily associated with the costly anticausative and agentful semantic types in terms of Haspelmath (2016) (see Kocharov [2023] for discussion). Further research is required to determine the relative productivity of Classical Armenian lexical causatives in different semantic domains. A preliminary survey of the biblical evidence suggests that unlike the causative-anticausative alternation, causative alternations with experiential and agentive base verbs do not go beyond a few suppletive pairs.

3.2 Synthetic causatives

The synthetic causative is the only productive type of derivational coding of valency-increasing alternations in Classical Armenian. It codes the causative alternation and, less productively, the applicative alternation that adds a recipient-like participant to the base predicate, cf. (3)–(4) and (5)–(6), respectively.

Ziard vałvałaki c῾amak῾ec῾aw t῾zeni=n
why suddenly be_dry.aor.3sg fig_tree.nom=det
‘How did the fig tree wither all at once?’
(Mt. 21:20)
c῾amak῾ec῾uc῾anē z=erkir
make_dry.caus.3sg def=earth.acc
‘[If he withholds the water,] he dries up the earth…’
(Job 12:15)
zgec῾aw z=handerj=n ayrowt῾ean iwroy
put_on.aor.3sg def=clothes.acc=det widowhood.gen own.gen
‘…put on her widow’s garments.’
(Gen. 38:19)
zgec῾usc῾es z=ayn Aharoni
clothe.caus.aor_sbj.2sg. def=that.acc Aharon.dat
‘Then you shall put them on Aaron’ (not ‘make Aaron put them on himself’)
(Ex. 28, 41)

3.2.1 Formal properties

The synthetic causatives typically have the default transitive and ditransitive case-frames, cf. (4) and (6) above. Under applicativization, the recipient can be coded as the direct object, yielding a double accusative construction, cf. (7).

or zgec῾uc῾anēr z=jez karmirs
who put_on.caus.impf.3sg
‘who clothed you in scarlet’
(2Kings. 1:24)

The synthetic causative is built with the derivational suffix -oycՙ- (stressed)/-ucՙ- (unstressed) and its rare equivalents -oyz- (stressed)/-uz- (unstressed) and -oys- (stressed)/-us- (unstressed). The causative suffixes are added to the perfective stem or the bare root of the noncausal verb, yielding the formal types listed in Table 3. The types of pʽaxucʽanem and korusanem result from truncation of the aorist suffix -i- (-i- + -a° > -ea°), or, in diachronic terms, from the loss of its allomorph -w- before -u-, cf. aor. *kor-i- (kornčʽim ‘disappear’) → causative *kor-i-ucʽ- > *kor-w-ucʽ- > *kor-ucʽ- (cf. the rounding of i in front of a labial vowel in gen *bar-i-oy > bar-w-oy of bari ‘good’). See Abrahamyan (1976: 180–181), Minassian (1996: 76), and Aṙakʽelyan (2010: 165) on marginal analogical deviations from these types.

Table 3:

Formal types of synthetic causatives in Classical Armenian.

Suffix Derivation base Base verb Causative
-oycՙ/ucՙ- aorist stem prs im -an-am prs imacʽ -ucʽ-anem
aor im-acʽ -ay ‘understand’ aor imacʽ -ucʽ-i ‘inform’
root prs pʽax -čʽ-im prs pʽax -ucʽ-anem
aor pʽax -e-ay ‘flee’ aor pʽax -ucʽ-i
‘make run away’
-oys/us- root prs kor -nčʽ-im prs kor -us-anem
aor kor -e-ay ‘disappear’ aor kor -us-i ‘destroy’
-oyz/uz- root/aorist stem prs pʽl -an-im prs pʽl -uz-anem
aor pʽl -ay ‘collapse’ aor pʽl -uz-i ‘ruin’

All the synthetic causatives belong to the verb class characterized by a suffix-less perfective stem and an imperfective stem with the suffix -an-, cf. 1sg.prs imacʽucʽ-an-em, aor imacʽucʽ-i ‘inform’. Besides the causatives, this verb class includes some fifty base transitive verbs, including canonical agentive transitive verbs of destruction like bekanem ‘break’, hatanem ‘cut’ and spananem ‘kill’. The synthetic causative is a Proto-Armenian innovation which developed while the prototype of the verb class in -an-em, inherited from dialectal Proto-Indo-European (see Kocharov 2019: 239–260), was still productive. Note that the suffix -an- of the imperfective stem is not part of the valency-increasing coding in derived causatives.

The few causatives built with the unproductive suffixes -oyz/uz- and -oys/us- are listed in Table 4. Like the productive causatives with -oycʽ/ucʽ-, these verbs have a 2sg. imperative ending -o resulting from the reduction of the causative suffix in word-final position, cf. 3sg. aor. imacʽ-oycʽ, 2sg. imp. imacʽ-o; 3sg. aor. pʽl-oyz, 2sg. imp. pl-o; 3sg. aor. kor-oys, 2sg imp. kor-o. The consonants were not lost in non-causative stems with identical word-final groups of consonants, cf. 3sg. aor. e-loycʽ ‘s/he kindled’, 2sg. imp. loycʽ. The imperative form is not attested for eluzanem and əndeluzanem, and its form is uncertain because the semantic contrast between the causal and noncausal verbs suggests that these causal verbs had become lexicalized as regular transitive verbs compatible with inanimate direct objects. This leaves one with positive evidence for only three causatives in -oyz/uz- and -oys/us- derived from noncausal intransitives. All three belong to verbs of destruction, implying direct causation and strong affectedness of the causee.

Table 4:

Unproductive synthetic causatives.

1st argument Base verb Causative
-oyz/uz- agent elanem ‘go out’ el-uz-anem ‘produce (of sounds)’
agent ǝndelanim ‘come together’ əndel-uz-anem ‘align (of gems)’
undergoer ǝnklnum ‘sink’ ənkl-uz-anem ‘make sink’
undergoer pʽlanim ‘collapse’ pʽl-uz-anem ‘make fall’
-oys/us- undergoer kornčʽim ‘disappear’ kor-us-anem ‘destroy’

3.2.2 Lexico-syntactic properties

The productive synthetic causative type in -oycʽ/ucʽ- can be derived from a wide range of semantic types of base verbs. According to Kocharov (2023), the electronic concordance of the Armenian Bible ( contains 261 synthetic causatives, distributed across semantic types as indicated in Table 5.[4]

Table 5:

Lexical distribution of synthetic causatives attested in the Bible.

Transitivity Typical semantic role of the first argument
patient undergoer experiencer agent
Synthetic causatives intransitive 1 118 58 77
transitive n/a n/a 4 10

As this table indicates, close to half of the synthetic causatives attested in the Bible are derived from verbs that typically refer to spontaneous events, e.g. cʽamakʽim intr. ‘become dry’ → causative cʽamakʽecʽucʽanem tr. ‘make dry’, cf. (3) and (4) above. The underlying anticausatives may be characterized as automatic in terms of Haspelmath (see Section 2), and their first argument is arguably more autonomous than that of anticausatives with lexical causatives (see Section 3.1). This type expresses direct causation, and the causee is strongly affected.

Experiential verbs constitute another common semantic type with synthetic causatives; these are centered around intransitive verbs of emotion and cognition, cf. barkanam intr. ‘become angry’ → causative barkacʽucʽanem ‘make angry’, hawatim intr. ‘become persuaded’ → causative hawatecʽucʽanem ‘persuade’. Synthetic causatives are attested in the Bible for a few experiential verbs of sensation (cf. cʽawem intr. ‘hurt’ → causative cʽawecʽucʽanem tr. ‘hurt’), and only two perception verbs: hayim intr. ‘look at’ → hayecʽucʽanem ‘make smth. look at smth.’, lsem intr. ‘listen to’ → lsecʽucʽanem ‘make to listen’, cf. (8)–(9).

na c῾awec῾uc῾anē ew miwsangam andrēn hastatē
he make_suffer.caus.3sg and another_time again comfort.3sg
‘he makes one suffer and restores one again…’
(Job 5:18 [Cox 2006: 75])
ənd or koys kami hayec῾uc῾anel darjuc῾anē z=na
to which side want.3sg look_at.caus.inf turn.caus.3sg def=he.acc
‘in which direction He wants to make him [the king] look, He turns him.’ (Prov. 21:1)

In the Bible, one finds the synthetic causative of four transitive experiential verbs, all verbs of cognition: imanam ‘understand’, čanačʽem ‘recognize’, moṙanam ‘forget’ and yišem ‘remember’, cf. (10)–(11). These causatives take the default ditransitive case-frame. Classical Armenian thus supports the cross-linguistic generalization according to which productive causatives are rarely derived from transitive verbs; where they do occur, such transitive verbs are often experiential, in particular ‘see’ and ‘remember’ (Nedyalkov and Silnitsky 1973: 16).

imac῾uc῾anem doc῾a z=hramans Astucoy
understand.caus.1sg god.gen
‘I make them know the statutes of God.’
(Ex. 18:16)
Moṙac῾oyc῾ inj Astuac z=amenayn višts im
make_forget.aor.3sg I.dat God def=all I.gen
‘God has made me forget all my trouble…’
(Gen. 41:51)

Note finally that in examples (8)–(11), the causer is in full control of the caused event and the causee is strongly affected.

The third large class of verbs with synthetic causatives consists of agentive verbs. The vast majority of such verbs are intransitive and typically describe events in which the first argument corresponds to a volitional participant affected in some way by its own action. Here belong, in particular, verbs of motion (e.g. xotorim intr. ‘depart’), activities (e.g. šabatʽanam ‘observe Sabbath’) and reciprocal actions (e.g. čakatim ‘clash with smb.’).

xotorec῾uc῾in z=tkars i čanaparhē ardarut῾ean
make_depart.aor.3pl from road.abl rightousness.gen
‘they turned aside the powerless from the righteous way’
(Job 24:4 [Cox 2006: 167])

Only a few synthetic causatives are derived from transitive agentive verbs, which include verbs of grooming (aganim ‘put on’, merkanam ‘take off’, zgenum ‘put on clothes’), ingestion (in a physical or figurative sense, cf. čašakem ‘eat’, diem ‘suck’, usanim ‘learn’), change of possession (baṙnam ‘pick up’, merjaworem ‘redeem for oneself’, žarangem ‘inherit’) and the verb of creation cnanim ‘give birth’ (whose causative cnucʽanem is strongly lexicalized and means ‘serve as a midwife’), cf. (13).

usucʽanēr z=nosa hanapaz i tačari=n
teach.impf.3sg daily in temple.loc=det
‘He was teaching daily in the temple.’
(Lk. 19:47)

The synthetic causatives derived from such verbs of grooming express the applicative alternation, which introduces a recipient that is not co-referential with the agent of the base verb, e.g. aganim ‘put smth. on oneself’ → agucʽanem ‘put smth. on smb.’ (and not ‘make smb. put smth. on oneself’), cf. (6) above; see Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002: 116–122), Aikhenvald (2011: 93–97), and Bahrt (2021: 218–224) on the causative-applicative syncretism. The verbs of ingestion and change of possession, by contrast, constitute the core of the transitive verbs with synthetic causatives together with the aforementioned transitive experiential verbs of cognition and perception. Cross-linguistically, ingestive verbs belong to those transitive verbs that most often allow for causativization (see Aikhenvald 2011: 91–92; Nedyalkov and Silnitsky 1973: 16; Shibatani 2002: 6–7; Wichmann 2015: 171).

Examples (12)–(13) show that the causee is strongly affected and the autonomy of the underlying agent-like argument of the base verb is strongly reduced; its volitional efforts to fulfill the caused event are backgrounded, whereas the efforts of the causer to bring about the event are foregrounded (see Shibatani [2002: 3] on affectedness in causatives). The causative semantics can perhaps be qualified as sociative rather than indirect in the case of synthetic causatives of agentive verbs (see Shibatani and Pardeshi [2002: 96–103] on the semantic type of sociative causation, which typically involves an agentive causee and a significant spatiotemporal overlap between the causing and caused sub-events, in contrast to the direct and indirect poles of the causation continuum).

The synthetic causative is rarely derived from lexical passives in Classical Armenian. In the biblical corpus, the clearest case is snanim intr. ‘be brought up’ (the first argument corresponding to an animate participant) → causative snucʽanem tr. ‘bring up’; no transitive active base verb *snanem is attested. Note that in this case the causing sub-event spans an extended period of time so that the spatiotemporal overlap between the causing and caused sub-events is not tight and the causative semantics can be qualified as indirect.

One of the phenomena related to the affectedness of the causee is the lexicalization of some frequently used synthetic causatives that results in their compatibility with patientive direct objects. Thus, for example, the subject of iǰanem intr. ‘go down’ typically corresponds to agent or undergoer when the verb expresses the purposeful motion of an animate subject or the spontaneous motion of an inanimate subject, respectively. Both types of subjects are affected in the derived causative iǰucʽanem ‘bring/put smb./smth. down’, cf. (14). However, iǰucʽanem can also take inanimate patientive second arguments such as ‘cup’ or ‘bed’ (15), which do not typically occur as subjects of the base motion verb. Such uses reveal the process of lexicalization and integration of the synthetic causative into the functional domain of transitive base verbs.

ov iǰowsc῾ē z=is y=erkir
who go_down.caus.3sg def=I.acc to=earth.acc
‘Who will bring me down to earth?’
(Obad. 1:3)
iǰowc῾in z=mahičs=n y=orowm kayr
go_down.caus.aor.3pl in=which.loc stay.impf.3sg
‘…they lowered the pallet on which the paralyzed man was lying.’
(Mk. 2:4)

In some cases, the synthetic causative undergoes even more far-reaching semantic shifts, cf. matčʽim ‘approach’ → causative matucʽanem ‘offer’ (< ‘bring close’), hatanem ‘cut’ → causative hatucʽanem ‘return’ (< ‘make separated from oneself’).[5] The lexicalization of such synthetic causatives goes hand in hand with their high frequency of use. Thus, only one of the six synthetic causatives attested over 200 times in the Bible (aprecʽucʽanem ‘save’), is typically used in a meaning that corresponds to the derivational semantics of the causative, see Table 6.[6]

Table 6:

Top frequent synthetic causatives attested in the Bible.

Base verb Synthetic causative Frequency in the Bible
matčʽim intr. ‘approach’ matucʽanem tr. ‘offer smth.’ 606
daṙnam intr. ‘turn, return’ darjucʽanem tr. ‘return smth.’ 458
kam intr. ‘stand’ kacʽucʽanem tr. ‘assign smb.’ 339
yaṙnem intr. ‘rise’ yarucʽanem tr. ‘raise smth./smb.’ 269
aprim intr. ‘escape’ aprecʽucʽanem tr. ‘let smb. escape’ 205
hatanem tr. ‘cut’ hatucʽanem tr. ‘return smth. to smb.’ 203

3.2.3 Competing transitive base verbs and synthetic causatives

It is quite common to find competition between the transitive base verb and the synthetic causative corresponding to the same intransitive verb. In all such cases, the noncausal verb is intransitive, cf. noncausal mp. tapalim intr. ‘fall off, collapse’ (S – undergoer) corresponding to causal active tapalem and causative tapalecʽucʽanem ‘roll aside’; mp. tʽaxanjim ‘be(come) vexed’ (S – experiencer) next to active tʽaxanjem and causative tʽaxanjecʽucʽanem ‘frighten’; mp. xotorim intr. ‘depart’ (S – agent) next to active xotorem and causative xotorecʽucʽanem tr. ‘make depart’, cf. (12) and (16).

xotoren z=datastans ałk῾atac῾
they drive justice away from the needy ones’ (ekklínontes krísin ptōkhō̃n)
(Is. 10:2)

According to Aṙak‛elyan (2010: 166), this pattern reflects a free variation between the causatives and active forms of base verbs, conditioned by increasing productivity of the causative as a marker of transitivity. Note, however, that the oppositional voice is still a productive way of coding transitivity alternations, the active-passive alternation in particular in Classical Armenian. One may assume that the formal contrast between the two types of transitivity pairs concerns the semantics of causation. The agent-patient role-frame associated with pairs containing the transitive base verb was in variation with the causer-undergoer, causer-experiencer, and causer-agent role-frames associated with pairs containing the synthetic causative. Both types could include one polysemous noncausal verb, which allowed for patientive as well as non-patientive readings. Thus, the patient in (16) and the affected agent in (12) both correspond to the subject of a polysemous base verb xotorim intr. ‘be driven away (of smth.)’ and ‘depart (of smb.)’, respectively.

The same functional relation applies to suppletive pairs derived from different roots, cf. the lexical and synthetic causatives of meṙanim ‘die’, expressed by spananem and meṙucʽanem, respectively, cf. (17).

ēin meṙealk῾=n z=ors meṙoyc῾ Samp῾son
be.impf.3pl dead=det make_die.aor.3sg Samson
i mahu=n iwrum aṙawel k῾an z=ors
in death.loc=det own.loc more than
span i kendanowt῾ean iwrum
kill.aor.3sg in life.gen own.loc
‘the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed during his lifetime.’ (hoùs ethanátōsen Sampsṓn en tō̃ͅ thanátōͅ autoũ, pleíous hupèr hoùs ethanátōsen en tē̃ͅ zōē̃ͅ autoũ)
(Judg. 16:30)

In (17), the transitive verb refers to the enemies being killed by Samson through direct physical contact in battle (noncausal pair ‘be killed’), while the synthetic causative describes Samson’s making the Philistines die by causing the house of the gathering to collapse (noncausal pair ‘die’). The semantic contrast is rather subtle given that the affected undergoer expressed by the direct object of the synthetic causative is a close contextual synonym of the genuine patient expressed by the direct object of the transitive base verb. Note that two different expressions correspond to the same verb form of thanatóō ‘kill’ in the parallel Greek passage and its English translation. In both cases, the causation is arguably direct, while the corresponding noncausal verbs belong to the costly and automatic anticausatives, respectively.

3.3 The analytic factitive

The factitive construction is built with the causal verb aṙnem ‘make’ + noun or adjective. The nominal part of the construction expresses the quality exerted by the causer upon the causee. When the substantival part contains an adjective, the analytic predicate has the default transitive case-frame (Jensen 1959: 144), cf. (18). When a noun is used, the double accusative construction is applied, cf. (19).

Dow lowsawor aṙnes z=črag im
you light make.2sg def=lamp.acc my
‘For you light my lamp…’ (hóti sù phōtieĩs lúkhnon mou)
(Ps. 17:29 [= LXX Ps. 18:28])
arar z=mez t῾agawors
*’He made us into kings…’ (kaì epoíēsen hēmãs basileían )
(Rev. 1:6)

The biblical evidence, including (19), shows that the factitive construction can be a calque of the underlying Greek construction poiéō ‘make’ plus the infinitive.[7]

The make-factitive is a causal counterpart of the construction em/linim + noun or adjective, which expresses a state or a change-of-state event (‘be/become X’). This pair of constructions typically expresses the causative-anticausative alternation. It is an analytic counterpart of the productive class of denominal/deadjectival anticausatives in -ana- and derived synthetic causatives, cf. Table 7. Unlike the anticausative em/linim-construction, anticausatives in -ana- typically express a dynamic process or the resulting change-of-state event (‘become X’).

Table 7:

Morphosyntactic relations between synthetic and analytic expressions of inchoative and factitive predicates.

Base substantive Derivation type Anticausative Causative
adj. spitak ‘white’ Synthetic spitakanam spitakacʽucʽanem
Analytic spitak linim spitak aṙnem
n. tʽagawor ‘ruler’ Synthetic tʽagaworanam tʽagaworacʽucʽanem
Analytic tʽagawor linim tʽagawor aṙnem

The grammatical contrast between the synthetic and analytic causative expressions may be assessed with respect to the aspectual properties of their noncausal pairs. In the synthetic causative there is a tight spatiotemporal overlap between the causing and caused sub-events, whereas the caused sub-event, expressed by the stative construction, typically persists after the causing sub-event is over.

3.4 The make-causative

Among the dated early Classical Armenian texts, the make-causative is attested only in the Bible. A list of attestations is given in Table 8. All of these attestations except Lk. 14:23 in (20) translate the Greek causative poiéō-construction. In the biblical corpus, one finds the make-causative derived from anticausatives (patahim ‘happen’ and orsord linim ‘become a hunter’) and agentive intransitives (activity verb mełančʽem ‘sin’, motion verbs mtanem ‘enter’ and xotorem ‘depart’).

Table 8:

Attestations of the aṙnem-causative in the Armenian Bible.

Base verb make-causative
mełančʽem intr. ‘sin’ Is. 29:21
mtanem intr. ‘enter’ Lk. 14:23; Job 14:3
orsord linim intr. ‘become a hunter’ Mk. 1:17
patahim intr. ‘happen’ Jer. 32:23
xotorem intr. ‘depart’ Prov. 14:27
El i čanaparhs ew i cʽangs ew ara
go_out.imp to and to and make.imp
aysr mtanel
here enter.inf
‘Go out into the roads and the hedges and urge them to come in…’ (éxelthe eis tàs hodoùs kaì phragmoùs kaì anánkason eiseltheĩn )
(Lk. 14:23)
El vałvałaki i hraparaks ew i p῾ołoc῾s k῾ałak῾i=d
go_out.imp at_once to and to city.gen=2det
ew z=ałk῾ats … moyc aysr
and bring_in.imp here
‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here those who are poor…’ (éxelthe takhéōs eis tàs plateías kaì rhúmas tē̃s póleōs, kaì toùs ptōkhoùs … eiságage hō̃de)
(Lk. 14:21)

Given the limited evidence, it is not clear whether the make-causative is a genuine grammatical phenomenon of Classical Armenian or simply mimics the Greek original. For example, Lk. 14:21 and Lk. 14:23, cf. (21) and (20), respectively, describe two successive orders to fill the house with strangers given by a landlord to a servant. While the first order is expressed by the imperative of eiságō in Greek and the synthetic causative in Armenian, the second order is expressed by anankázō eiseltheĩn in Greek and the analytic causative in Armenian. The Armenian text may have been adjusted to the Greek in the use of a simplex and an analytic expression, respectively. However, the choice of a generic light verb aṙnem to translate anankázō reveals a certain degree of independence of the Armenian construction.

Another indication of the independence of the Armenian make-causative from the Greek text is the case assignment. In the Greek poiéō-construction, the causee is invariably coded by the accusative, reflecting the default case-frame of poiéō. In the Armenian translations, however, one finds a split between the coding of the causee with the accusative and the dative. Meager as it is, the evidence points to a distribution between accusative coding of the causee with a causative of an anticausative (orsord linim ‘become a hunter’ in Mk. 1:17, patahem ‘happen’ in Jer. 32:23) as opposed to dative coding with a causative of an agentive intransitive base verb (mełančʽem ‘sin’ in Is. 29:21; mtanem ‘enter’ in Job 14:3), cf. (22) and (23).

ararin patahel iwreanc῾ amenayn č῾areac῾=s aysoc῾ik
make.aor.3pl happen.inf all.acc
‘they made all of these bad things happen to themselves’ (LXX, Jer. 39, 23: kaì epoíēsas sumbē̃nai autoĩs pánta tà kakà taũta)
(Jer. 32:23)
nma ararer mtanel i datastan aṙaǰi kʽo.
he.dat make.aor.2sg enter.inf to judgement.acc before you.gen
‘You made him enter into judgement before you.’ (toũton epoíēsas eiseltheĩn en krímati enṓpión sou)
(Job 14:3 [Cox 2006: 118])

The distinctive features of the Classical Armenian make-causative may be tentatively explained as a blend of the genuine give-causative with the dative coding of the causee (see Section 3.5) and a calque of the poiéō-construction. Independent uses like the one in Lk. 14:23 would then witness a marginal spread of the construction to translate Greek analytic expressions other than the poiéō-causative. Even if the make-causative is the result of language interference, it should still be considered part of the Classical Armenian causative continuum given that its rise was not suppressed by a much more productive synthetic causative and the give-causative.

3.5 The give-causative

The give-causative is moderately productive and is well attested both in the early translations from Greek and in the original early Classical Armenian texts. Some 64 verbs are found with the give-causative in the Bible, Eznik’s De Deo and Agatʽangełos’ History of the Armenians (see the supplementary material at In the Bible, the give-causatives of 13 verbs always translate the corresponding Greek construction of dídōmi ‘give’ plus the infinitive; such cases can be considered translation calques.[8] Altogether, the large proportion of independent uses shows that the construction may well belong to genuine Classical Armenian grammar unless one assumes that it had originated in the Bible translation as a calque from Greek and spread to non-translated literary texts to express predicates which would have otherwise been expressed by synthetic causatives.

3.5.1 Formal properties

The give-causative is typically construed with the default ditransitive case-frame, cf. (24). In the give-causative of anticausatives, however, the causee can be coded by the accusative, cf. (25). The causee is often omitted in the give-causative when derived from ditransitive verbs, in particular berem ‘bring’, cf. (26). The omission of the causee is characteristic of indirect causation, in which the affectedness of the affectee is foregrounded (Kemmer and Verhagen 1994: 130–136).

tayr hroy iǰanel y=erknic῾ y=erkir ….
give.impf.3sg fire.dat go_down.inf to=earth.acc
‘he makes fire come down out of the sky to the earth’ (hína kaì pũr poiē̃ͅ ek toũ ouranoũ katabaínein eis tḕn gē̃n)
(Rev. 13:13)
tal z=Hogi=n Astucoy bnakel i sirts mardkan
give.inf def=spirit=det God.gen dwell.inf in heart.loc people.gen
to make the Spirit of God dwell in men’s hearts…’
(Yuzbashyan and Muradyan 2003: 1632–1633 [§690])
tur berel inj p῾ayts i Libananē
give.imp carry.inf I.dat from Lebanon.abl
send me … timber from Lebanon … ’ (kaì apósteilón moi xúla … ek toũ Libánou)
(2Chron. 2:8)

3.5.2 Lexico-syntactic properties

The attestations of the give-causative in the Bible, Eznik’s De Deo (Mariès and Mercier 1959) and Agatʽangełos’ History of the Armenians (Yuzbashyan and Muradyan 2003) include cases of the causation of anticausative, experiential, and agentive verbs, cf. Table 9.

Table 9:

Type frequency of the give-causative in the Bible, Eznik’s De Deo and Agatʽangełos’ History of the Armenians.

Semantic role of the 1st argument Transitivity
Intransitive Transitive
undergoer 6
experiencer 2 4
agent 17 34

The table shows that the causativization of transitive agentive verbs constitutes the main lexico-syntactic prototype of the give-causative, in sharp contrast to the synthetic causative described in Section 3.2. A closer look at the evidence allows one to identify the core of that prototype. Only ten verbs have analytic causatives that are attested more than once. Among these, two lexical groups are best attested in the biblical corpus: a) verbs of dislocation: tanim tr. ‘carry away’ (22×), berem tr. ‘bring’ (12×) and acem tr. ‘drive’ (9×); b) ingestive verbs: ǝmpem tr. ‘drink’ (22×) and utem tr. ‘eat’ (13×).

The verbs of the first group are particularly prominent. Their analytic causatives consistently translate Greek simplex verbs and never the dídōmi-construction in the Bible. None of them is attested in the form of a synthetic causative. Tanim and acem typically have a volitional direct object (corresponding to the affectee of the derived causative) and can be viewed as lexical causatives corresponding to agentive intransitive verbs of motion. The direct object of berem ‘bring’, by contrast, is typically non-volitional.

All of the verbs of this group are three-argument transitive verbs with a target/source argument. The give-causative of such verbs may reflect a constraint on forming synthetic causatives from three-argument transitive verbs. A comparable explanation may be suggested for the occasional give-causative derived from other three-argument verbs of dislocation and change of possession including aṙnum ‘get’ (Agatʽangełos §179; Eznik §23), dnem ‘put’ (Agatʽangełos §109), ǝnkenum ‘cast’ (Agatʽangełos §136), hanem ‘drag’ (Agatʽangełos §206), kaxem ‘hang’ (Agatʽangełos §69) and tałem ‘burry’ (Rev. 11:9).

The evidence of the ingestive verbs utem and ǝmpem is somewhat ambiguous. It is not always easy to decide whether tam is used as a lexical verb followed by the infinitive of purpose or as the light verb of the causative construction, cf. (27).

z=ayn et jez utel
def=that give.aor.3sg you.dat eat.inf
(toũto édōken humĩn phageĩn )
a. ‘gave it to you to eat’ (biclausal reading)
b. ‘made/let you eat it’ (causative/permissive reading)
(Lev. 10:17)

Moreover, the give-causative of utem always translates the Greek dídōmi-construction in the Bible except for Rev. 2:17, where tam translates dídōmi without a dependent infinitive, cf. (28). By contrast, the give-causative of ǝmpem mostly translates the Greek lexical causative potízein ‘give to drink’ and cannot be considered a calque; cf. also the give-causative of klanem ‘swallow’ (Eznik §23) within the same lexical group.

tac῾ nma utel i mananayē=n t῾ak῾uc῾eloy
give.aor_sbj.1sg he.dat eat.inf from manna.abl=det hide.ptcp.abl
‘I will let/give him (to) eat some of the hidden manna…’
( dṓsō autō̃ͅ toũ mánna toũ kekrumménou)
(Rev. 2:17)

The give-causative of the remaining 29 transitive verbs is attested more than once only for five verbs (pahem ‘guard’ 3×, gorcem ‘work’ 2×, mełančʽem ‘do wrong’ 2×, xawsim ‘say’ 5×, yałtʽem ‘overcome’ 2×), all of which denote activities and can easily be construed as agentive intransitives under antipassivization. Six more hapax give-causatives translate the Greek dídōmi-construction and are derived from the following verbs: grem ‘write’, hatucʽanem ‘return’, mucʽanem ‘bring’, spananem ‘kill’, žaṙangem ‘inherit’, zgenum ‘put on’. It remains unclear whether the give-causatives of any of these verbs could be licensed by genuine Classical Armenian grammar when not influenced by the Greek text. While hatucʽanem ‘return’, mucʽanem ‘bring’, žaṙangem ‘inherit’ can be attributed to the lexical group of three-argument verbs of dislocation and change of possession for which the give-causative may be expected, the give-construction with canonical agentive transitive spananem (1Kings 24:8) translates the Greek poiéō-construction and has a clear permissive reading. The remaining 11 hapaxes constitute evidence for the use of the give-causative in the domain of agentive transitive verbs beyond the aforementioned semantic prototypes, including anuanem ‘name’, aṙnem ‘make’, banam ‘open’, čarčarem ‘torment’, kapem ‘bind’, kardam ‘read aloud’, koxem ‘trample on’, norogem ‘renew’, pndem ‘fasten’, šinem ‘build’ and taracanem ‘spread’.

The give-causative of only two agentive intransitives is attested more than once in the examined texts: ancʽanem ‘pass by’ and nstim ‘sit down’ (the occurrence of barbaṙem in Agatʽangełos §499 is a textual borrowing from Acts 2:4, so the latter context must be classified as a hapax). Of these, both occurrences of the causative of nstim and two out of three occurrences of the causative of ancʽanem translate the Greek dídōmi-construction. Four other hapax give-causatives of agentive intransitives translate the dídōmi-construction: caṙayem ‘serve’, jagem ‘satiate oneself’, paterazmim ‘fight’ and yaṙnem ‘rise up’. The remaining nine hapaxes constitute evidence for the use of the give-causative in the domain of agentive intransitives: bnakem ‘dwell’, čašakem ‘dine’, dadarem ‘stop’, daṙnam ‘turn’, dlam ‘stop’, erkir paganem ‘worship’, hangčʽim ‘repose’, mtanem ‘enter’, šnam ‘commit adultery’ and veranam ‘go up’.

The give-causative is rarely derived from non-agentive verbs. In the examined sources, it is attested for only six experiential verbs, including four transitive ones: arhamarhem ‘disdain’ (emotion; Sir. 17:12), aṙnum ‘perceive’ (cognition; Agatʽangełos §179), gitem ‘know’ (cognition; Ezra 4:16) and tesanem ‘see’ (perception; Tob. 10:13),[9] cf. (29); and two intransitive ones: lsem ‘listen to’ (perception) and hamberem ‘wait for’ (cognition), cf. (30). Of these, only the analytic causative of tesanem in (29) translates the Greek dídōmi-construction and may be a calque.

tac῾ē tesanel inj zawaki
give.aor_sbj.3sg see.inf I.dat child.gen
‘…grant that I may see thy children…’ ( dṓͅē moi ideĩn sou paidía ek Sarrhas tē̃s thugatrós mou)
(Tob. 10:13)
tʽe caṙay or ǝnd unkn očʽ lsē ǝnd
if servant who with ear.acc not hear.3sg with
mkanuns tan lsel nma give.3pl hear.inf he.dat
‘…the slave who has not heard with his ear, they let him hear with his back.’
(Mariès and Mercier 1959, §59[10])

Finally, the give-causative is marginally attested for predicates describing spontaneous events occurring to inanimate subjects, typically natural phenomena: cagem ‘radiate (of light)’ (Agatʽangełos §566), dołam ‘tremble (of earth)’ (Ps. 103:32), iǰanem ‘go down (of fire)’ (Rev. 13:13), cf. (24), where the Armenian give-causative corresponds to the poiéō- and not the dídōmi-construction.

Furthermore, the give-causative can be derived from stative/inchoative quality predicates with animate subjects, cf. aržani linel ‘become worthy’ (Agatʽangełos §431), xotačarak linel ‘become herbivore’ (Agatʽangełos §179), and yaytni linel ‘become evident’ (Acts 10:40). Although the Armenian causative translates the dídōmi-construction in (31), the causee is coded by the dative in translation, against the accusative in the Greek original. Moreover, the abovementioned contexts from Agatʽangełos (§§179, 431) show that such a complex analytic construction was grammatical in Classical Armenian.

Z=na Astuac yaroyc῾ y=errord awur ew et
def=he.acc God make_rise.aor.3sg in=third day.loc and give.aor.3sg
nma yaytni linel
he.dat visible be.inf
‘God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He be revealed…’
(toũton ho theòs ḗgeiren [en] tē̃ͅ trítēͅ hēméraͅ kaì édōken autòn emphanē̃ genésthai )
(Acts 10:40)

The permissive semantics of the give-causative is foregrounded in negated contexts. The negation cancels the predication expressing the causer’s control over the causing sub-event. The permissive use licenses the application of the construction to verbs that typically express causation with the help of the morphological causative. Thus, the give-causative of daṙnam ‘return’ is found only once in a negated context (32) as opposed to over 450 attestations of the morphological causative of daṙnam in the Bible.

Sawuł … oč῾ et nma daṙnal i tun hawr iwroy
Saul not give.aor.3sg he.dat return.inf to home.acc father.gen his.gen
‘Saul … did not let him return to his father’s house.’
(1Kings 18:2)

Although the permissive semantics of negated give-constructions is most clear with volitional causees, it also may provide an explanation of the construction with a non-volitional causee, cf. (33), where it competes with the synthetic causative. The standard translations of the passage in (33) (see Mariès and Mercier 1959: 650; Blanchard and Young 1998: 166), account for the formal difference in the causative expressions by rendering the analytic causative with a permissive modal verb (“jamais ils ne permettraient”, ‘it would not be allowed’).

et῾ē iwrak῾anč῾iwr ok῾ i noc῾anē iǰuc῾anel karēr
if each who from make_descend.inf can.impf.3sg
z=na oč῾ erbēk῾ tayin nma elanel y=erkins
def=he.acc not ever give.impf.3pl it.dat go_up.inf
‘If each one of them [magicians] were able to make it descend, it would never be allowed to ascend to the heavens.’ (trans. Blanchard and Young 1998: 166).
(Mariès and Mercier 1959, §316)

3.5.3 Competing synthetic and analytic causatives

Synthetic and analytic causatives derived from the same base verb are attested for 13 out of 63 verbs with the give-causative attested in the Armenian Bible translation; see the supplementary material at All these verbs are agentive, both intransitive and transitive. Except for the case of čašakel, the synthetic causative has a significantly higher text frequency, see Table 10.

Table 10:

Text frequency of contrasting synthetic and analytic causatives in the Bible (the shaded cells correspond to contexts that translate the Greek dídōmi-construction).

Base verb Text frequency of causatives
Synthetic Analytic Analytic causative translates dídōmi-construction in the Greek text
ancʽanel ‘pass by’ 69 3 2 (Num. 21:23; 2Chron. 20:10)
bnakel ‘dwell’ 49 1
caṙayel ‘serve’ 11 1 1 (Lev. 18:21)
čašakel ‘dine’ 1 1
dadarel ‘stop’ 15 1
daṙnal ‘return’ 503 1
hangčʽel ‘repose’ 45 1
jagel ‘satiate oneself’ 22 1 1 (Job. 31:31)
nstel ‘sit down’ 39 2 2 (1Kings 3:6; Rev. 3:21)
veranal ‘go up’ 35 1
yaṙnel ‘rise up’ 156 1 1 (1Sam. 24:8)
žaṙangel ‘inherit’ 27 1 1 (Deut. 9:6)
zgenul ‘put on’ 59 1 1 (Rev. 19:8)

In six of the cases, mentioned in Table 10, some attestations of the give-causative always translate the Greek dídōmi-construction and may be translation calques. However, the availability of the dídōmi-construction does not guarantee that the analytic causative of the Armenian translation is a calque. For example, the well attested synthetic causative of zgenum ‘put smth. on oneself’ codes an applicative alternation resulting in the meaning ‘put smth. on smb.’ (see Section 3.2). By contrast, the only biblical attestation of the give-causative expresses the causative alternation that introduces an external agent and yields the indirect causative meaning ‘make/let one put smth. on oneself’, cf. (34). Here the use of the analytic causative is functionally motivated and need not be a calque.

Ew tuaw nma zgenul behezs spitaks surbs
and give.aor.3sg she.dat clothe.inf
‘It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen’ (kaì edóthē autē̃ͅ hína peribálētai bússinon lampròn katharón)
(Rev. 19:8)

In other cases, the two causatives primarily express the contrast between direct and indirect causation, cf. (35) and (36), where the two causatives of veranam ‘go up’ describe a direct impact fully controlled by the causer and indirect causation involving the communicative effort of the causer.

verac῾oyc῾ z=is Ogi
make_ascend.aor.3sg def=I.acc spirit
‘then the spirit took me up
(Ezek. 3:12)
amenayn azgac῾ etun veranal aṙ_hasarak y=ark῾ayut῾iwn=n
all give.aor.3pl go_up.inf together to=kingdom.acc=det
‘they [prophets] enabled all races to rise together to the kingdom’ (Thomson 1970: 167)
(Yuzbashyan and Muradyan 2003: 1623 [§672])

In (37) and (38), both the synthetic and the analytic causative of ǝmpem ‘drink’ translate Greek potízein ‘give to drink’ and are used in parallel contexts. This case shows that the direct and indirect interpretation of the causation depends on context and may be orthogonal to the semantic type of a predicate.

arbusc῾ē knoǰ=n z=ǰur=n
make_drink.aor_sbj.3sg woman.dat=det def=water.acc=det
‘…he shall make the woman drink the water.’ ( potieĩ tḕn gunaĩka tò húdōr)
(Num. 5:26)
tac῾ē əmpel knoǰ=n z=ǰur=n
give.aor_sbj.3sg drink.inf woman.dat=det def=water.acc=det
‘he shall make the woman drink the water…’ ( potieĩ tḕn gunaĩka tò húdōr)
(Num. 5:24)

The difference between the causative meanings expressed by the synthetic and analytic causatives therefore cannot be reduced to the semantic properties of the first argument of the noncausal verb but also concerns the semantic features of the corresponding causee of the causal verb (Aikhenvald 2011: 97–100; Dixon 2000: 62–74).

With respect to the evidence reviewed here, one may suggest that the preferential use of the give-causative with verbs of dislocation and ingestion reflects an early stage in the grammaticalization of the construction that had moderately extended beyond its semantic prototype to the domains of agentive transitives as well as agentive and non-agentive intransitives in order of decreasing productivity.[11] This grammaticalization process seems to have been largely independent of the influence of the Greek dídōmi-construction.

4 The causative continuum of Classical Armenian

The formal and semantic parameters allow us to arrange the five Classical Armenian formations, described in Section 3, in a causative continuum as summarized in Table 11. The formal types are arranged according to their morphosyntactic complexity (lexical < synthetic < analytic), case coding of the causee (accusative < dative), and productivity (as reflected in the type frequency in the study corpus). The make-factitive is placed between the synthetic and analytic causatives because while being an analytic construction, it contains less dedicated verbal morphology (adjective/noun as opposed to the infinitive of the analytic causatives) and its causee is never coded by the dative. The synthetic and analytic causatives with a lower type frequency, as attested in the study corpus, are located to the left of those with the higher type frequency.

Table 11:

Formal and semantic features of the Classical Armenian causatives.

Formal type of the causative
Noncausal Lexical Synthetic Analytic
caus. -oyz-, -oys- -oycʽ- make-fact. make-caus. give-caus.

Case coding of the causee

nom. acc. acc. acc. acc. acc. dat. acc. dat.

1st arg. of the noncausal verb/2nd arg. of the causal verb

P (intr) P [P]
U (intr) P [P] PU PU [UP] [UP] [UP]
E (intr) [P] PE [EP]
E (tr) [P] PE [EP]
A (intr) [P] PA [AP] AP
A (tr) [PA] AP
  1. P, patient; U, undergoer, E, experiencer, A, agent; the subscript letters indicate background properties of semantic roles accompanying the causativization. The types in square brackets are attested for less than 10 lexical items in the study corpus.

The lexical causative typically expresses direct causation with the full control of the causer and a strongly affected causee. This type formally overlaps with the type expressing transitive verbs, and their passive alternation yields a cross-linguistically common passive-anticausative syncretic pattern (see Bahrt 2021: 81–82). This most compact expression of causativity corresponds to noncausal verbs with patientive and costly anticausative meanings. A few suppletive pairs with lexical causatives and base verbs of the semantic types higher on the spontaneity scale (like tesanem ‘see’/cʽucʽanem ‘show’) are exceptional and constitute only very marginal counterevidence against Haspelmath’s Universal 1, see below.

The synthetic causative is the default way to causativize intransitive verbs, the first argument of which is characterized by a certain degree of autonomy (the subject of automatic anticausatives, experiential and agentive verbs; only a few lexical passives have synthetic causatives). Depending on the semantic class of the base verb and its contextual readings, the synthetic causative typically expresses direct or sociative causation. Classical Armenian allows the causativization of a small group of transitive verbs of cognition and verbs with an affected agent-like participant. Synthetic causatives are not derived from canonical transitive and ditransitive base verbs. The first argument of noncausal verbs is strongly affected under causativization, and the contrast between the semantic roles of noncausal verb is largely neutralized. The strong degree of affectedness of the causee is the starting point for the secondary extension of the lexical compatibility of synthetic causatives to canonical patientive direct objects and the lexicalization of causatives to verbal forms with regular transitive semantics.

A few causatives in -oyz- and -oys-, being unproductive types, take an intermediate position between lexical and synthetic causatives. They constitute the periphery of overt causative coding. When not lexicalized, they are derived from anticausatives and express the direct causation (verbs of destruction) typical of lexical and synthetic causatives centered on the patientive and costly anticausative semantic types, on the one hand, and the automatic anticausative type, on the other hand.

The argument features of the make-factitive overlap with those of the lexical and synthetic causatives paired with anticausatives. Their relatively more complex form correlates with the aspectual difference that implies less spatiotemporal overlap between the causing and caused sub-events of the causative situation (cf. Haiman 1985: 110). Note that the degree of morphosyntactic complexity of the make-factitive in Classical Armenian contradicts the model suggested by Lehmann (2016: 926–927), according to which causatives derived from adjectives tend to be lower on the causation continuum than causatives of anticausatives.

The analytic causatives express sociative and indirect causation of agentive transitive verbs of dislocation and ingestion, less consistently of agentive intransitives and rarely of experiential and anticausative verbs. The marginal extension of the construction to the last semantic type can be partly accounted for by the influence of the dídōmi-construction in the Bible, especially when one is dealing with unique occurrences of the analytic causative. Nonetheless, the use of analytic causatives to express the causative-anticausative alternation can be considered as a genuine Classical Armenian phenomenon in a relatively high number of contexts, in particular with anticausatives expressing natural phenomena. The give-causative is not fully grammaticalized; it has a limited lexical distribution and coincides with the infinitival construction with tam ‘give’ expressing purpose. It is often difficult to distinguish between the causative and permissive readings of the give-causative. In causative uses, the first argument of the noncausal verb is not strongly affected and the causee retains the semantic features of the subject of the noncausal verb.

The grammatical status of the make-causative is controversial given that it predominantly translates the Greek poiéō-construction and is not found in early non-translated early classical texts. The make-causative of anticausatives and agentive intransitives expresses sociative or indirect causation. Altogether, the relatively stronger and weaker degree of the causer’s control may be correlated with the coding of the causee by the accusative and dative case, respectively; in support of this semantic approach, see Dixon (2000: 45–59), Kemmer and Verhagen (1994), Kulikov (2001: 890).

None of the examined causatives is productively derived from canonical transitive agentive verbs like ‘break’, ‘hit’, or ‘kill’. The causation of such predicates requires a polypredicative construction in Classical Armenian.

The semantic prototypes of the reviewed causative expressions generally agree with the cross-linguistically common tendency to express events with a higher degree of autonomy of the causee (or more indirect causative meanings) using more complex coding. The complexity of coding concerns morphosyntactic parameters such as the grammatical autonomy and linguistic distance between the morphological constituents expressing the causing and caused sub-events (see Dixon 2000: 74–78; Haiman 1985: 105), rather than the length of the causatives in terms of formal segments (Haspelmath 2008: 22–24, 2016: 54–55; Levshina 2016). In particular, the relative length of the Classical Armenian causatives shows systematic deviations from an expected coding of indirect causation with longer markers; cf. the 3rd singular forms in the present and aorist in Tables 12 and 13 (where the relative position of the make-factitive is established with respect to the synthetic causative derived from denominal anticausative verbs).

Table 12:

Relative length of the causatives of mtanem ‘enter’ and bnakem ‘dwell’ (number of phonemes given in brackets).

Present 3sg. Aorist 3sg.
Noncausal mtanē (5) bnakē (5) emut (4) bnakeacʽ (7)
Lexical causative mucanē (6) emoyc (5)
Synthetic causative mtucʽanē (7) bnakecʽucʽanē (11) mtoycʽ (5) bnakecʽoycʽ (9)
give-causative mtanel tay (9) bnakel tay (9) mtanel et (8) bnakel et (8)
make-causative mtanel aṙnē (10) mtanel arar (10)
Table 13:

Relative length of the synthetic causative and make-factitive.

Adjective Present Aorist
base adjective spitak ‘white’ (6)
analytic anticausative spitak ē (7) spitak ełew (10)
make-factitive spitak aṙnē (10) spitak arar (10)
synthetic anticausative spitakanay (10) spitakacʽaw (10)
synthetic causative spitakacʽucʽanē (13) spitakacʽoycʽ (11)

The relative length of the 3rd person singular forms in Tables 12 and 13 depends on the type of the aorist stem from which the synthetic causative is derived. In verbs with a root aorist, the length corresponds to the scale of morphosyntactic complexity (lexical > synthetic > analytic) and rather neatly correlates with the direct-indirect causation continuum. However, the give-causative is shorter than the synthetic causative in by far the most productive Classical Armenian verb class characterized by an aorist stem in -ecʽ-, as illustrated by the causatives of bnakem ‘dwell’. Furthermore, the make-causative is phonologically longer than the give-causative but, unlike the latter, is not attested for agentive transitive verbs and thus should take a relatively lower position in the causation continuum.[12]

The relative position of the three formal types of synthetic causative and the two types of analytic causative, indicated in Table 11, supports the generalization proposed by Shibatani and Pardeshi (2002: 109–116) according to which the position of a formation on the causation continuum depends on its relative productivity. The unproductive causatives in -oys- and -oyz- are derived from costly anticausatives, while the productive type in -oycʽ- is typically derived from automatic anticausatives and predicates higher on the spontaneity scale. Furthermore, the less productive make-causative is derived from a narrower range of semantic types that the more productive give-causative. Note however that the synthetic causative is more productive than the analytic constructions, although the latter are more typical for the expression of indirect causation, contrary to Shibatani and Pardeshi’s (2002: 112) generalization on the correlation between indirect causation and productivity.

The Classical Armenian causative continuum shows a significant correspondence between morphosyntactic complexity and semantic type of the base verb. Many of the universals suggested by Haspelmath (2016) hold true, see Table 14. Thus, Universals 3, 7, 9 (Haspelmath 2016: 49) and 10 uncontroversially apply to Classical Armenian. Other universals may apply with modifications. Thus, Universal 9 (Haspelmath 2016: 46) fails to predict the derivation of the synthetic causative from agentive intransitive (“unergative”) base verbs next to the more complex give-causative derived from agentive intransitive and transitive base verbs. One of the two universals that refer to syntactic transitivity (Universal 6) also works for Classical Armenian.

Table 14:

Universals of causative verb formation (Haspelmath 2016).

Universals referring to the semantic type of the base verb CArm.
Universal 1 The higher the noncausal meaning of a causal-noncausal pair is on the spontaneity scale, the longer and the more analytic any causative marker on the causal verb form will be.
Universal 3 If an analytic causative can be used with base verbs of some type, it can be used with base verbs of all types higher on the spontaneity scale. +
Universal 4 If a synthetic causative can be used with base verbs of some type, analytic causatives will not be required with base verbs lower on the spontaneity scale.
Universal 7 If a language has synthetic causatives based on unergative verbs, it also has synthetic causal verbs corresponding to unaccusative noncausal verbs. +
Universal 9 (p. 46) If a language has several causative markers of different lengths, then the longer markers tend to be used with unergative bases, and the shorter markers tend to be used with unaccusative bases. ±
Universal 9 (p. 49) If a language generally has causatives of costly base verbs, then it also generally has causatives of automatic verbs (and all base verbs higher on the spontaneity scale). +
Universal 10 If a language has causatives of any kind of base verb, then it also has causatives of all base verb types higher on the spontaneity scale. +

Universals referring to syntactic transitivity

Universal 6 If a language has synthetic causatives of transitive verbs, it also has synthetic causatives of intransitive verbs. +
Universal 8 If a language has several causative markers of different lengths, then the longer markers tend to be used with transitive bases, and the shorter markers tend to be used with intransitive bases.

However, given that different formal types of causatives, characterized by varying degrees of affectedness of the causee, can be derived from the same semantic types, the Classical Armenian facts do not support the main generalization, Universal 1, and its special case, Universal 4. Thus, for example, the expectation that if a synthetic causative is used with base verbs of agentive intransitives, analytic causatives will not be required with anticausatives lower on the spontaneity scale, is not fulfilled. Universal 8 also does not apply to Classical Armenian because it is formulated with respect to the length and not morphosyntactic complexity of causatives. As mentioned above (see Tables 12 and 13), the give-causative that is typically used with transitive base verbs is phonologically shorter than the synthetic causative.

5 Conclusions

The present paper has offered a description of the lexical distribution and grammatical features of the five expressions of causativity in Classical Armenian, including the lexical and synthetic causative and three analytic constructions with the verbs aṙnem ‘make’ and tam ‘give’. The study shows that the morphosyntactic complexity of the causative formations partly correlates with a continuum of lexico-syntactic types of predicates, with the autonomy of the first argument increasing from patientive intransitives to agentive transitives. The lexical causatives are centered on patientive and costly anticausative verbs, while the synthetic causative is productive for a wide range of intransitive types starting from automatic anticausatives and predicates higher on the spontaneity scale. The make-factitive primarily corresponds to anticausatives and is opposed to the corresponding semantic type of synthetic causatives in aspectual features. The make-causative is a transitional type, which may be a product of Greek influence on the Armenian of the Bible translation, and is best attested with agentive intransitives. The give-causative is centered on agentive transitive verbs, primarily verbs of dislocation and ingestion, but excludes canonical agentive transitive verbs.

The aforementioned form-meaning correlation is not strict, and one finds areas of overlap in the lexical distribution of the various causative formations, which can be explained by the (in)directness distinction of causation and the degree of affectedness of the causee. Given that the latter parameter proves not to be fully dependent on the lexical type of the noncausal base verb, Classical Armenian provides evidence against a typological generalization, according to which the degree of spontaneity of the noncausal meaning of a causal-noncausal pair defines the phonological length and the morphosyntactic type of the causative in languages with several causative formations.

Non-Leipzig abbreviations






aorist subjunctive







Corresponding author: Petr Kocharov, Lehrstuhl für Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Oswald-Külpe-Weg 84, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany, E-mail:


The research is part of the project “The Lexicon-Grammar Interface in the History of the Classical Armenian Verb” funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2021–2022). I thank Daniel Kölligan, the anonymous reviewers and the editors for important comments on the earlier versions of this paper.


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Received: 2022-09-27
Accepted: 2023-02-12
Published Online: 2023-04-24
Published in Print: 2023-11-27

© 2023 the author(s), published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston

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