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The Berber “state” distinction: Dependent marking after all? A commentary on Mettouchi & Frajzyngier (2013)

  • Peter Arkadiev EMAIL logo
From the journal Linguistic Typology


Critically reviewing the recent analysis of the distinction between the so-called “absolute” and “annexed” “states” in Kabyle (Berber) by Mettouchi & Frajzyngier (2013) (M&F), it is shown that it does not fare better than the existing treatments in its account of the empirical facts, mainly due to the assumption of monosemy. It is further argued that M&F’s rejection of “case” as a valid notion for the description of the Kabyle data rests on simplistic and ill-informed views on the nature of case, and that adoption of a case analysis allows one to compare the Berber data to a wide range of languages with similar peculiarities in the distribution of dependent marking. Finally, M&F’s claim that their analysis of Kabyle has pointed out a “previously unrecognized typological category” is refuted, showing that it stems from an unwarranted mixing of language-particular descriptive categories and crosslinguistic comparative concepts.


I thank Eitan Grossman and Martin Haspelmath for their moral support, Corinna Handschuh for her very useful comments on the last version of the article and for sharing her database with me, and Frans Plank and three anonymous LT reviewers – especially one of them – for their useful suggestions. This work has been supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant # 14-18-03270. All faults are mine.


1/2/3=1st/2nd/3rd person; a=agent; abs=absolutive; acc=accusative; all=allative; conn=connective particle; dat=dative; def=definite; df=default agreement; erg=ergative; expe=expected; f=feminine; gen=genitive; inf=infinitive; ins=instrumental; loc=locative; m=masculine; neg=negation; nom=nominative; obl=oblique case; pa=active participle; pfv=perfective; pl=plural; poss=possessor; pp=passive participle; prs=present tense; pst=past tense; quot=quotative; rls=realis; sbd=subordinator; sg=singular.


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Received: 2013-10-7
Revised: 2014-12-23
Published Online: 2015-5-1
Published in Print: 2015-5-1

©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton

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