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Oblique anticausatives: A morphosyntactic isogloss in Indo-European

  • Jóhanna Barđdal EMAIL logo , Leonid Kulikov , Roland Pooth and Peter Alexander Kerkhof


The goal of this article is to introduce to the field a particular subtype of valency-reducing strategies, referred to as oblique anticausativization below. This subtype differs from more common and better known dependent-marking types, such as, for instance, the canonical anticausative. Instead, oblique anticausatives are characterized by the preservation of the object case of the transitive-causative alternant, hence the term oblique. This object case marker shows up with the subject of the corresponding intransitive construction. We document the existence of this alternation in seven branches of Indo-European, particularly in the North-Central region, but also sporadically in the South-Eastern parts of the Indo-European area. Ruling out alternative accounts of the relevant geographical distribution, such as borrowing and shared innovation, we argue for a morphosyntactic isogloss common for Germanic, Baltic, Slavic and Italic. This is paralleled by isolated enclaves found in other branches of Indo-European, such as Ancient Greek, Anatolian and Indo-Aryan. Altogether, the evidence speaks for the existence of oblique anticausativization in the proto-language, thus motivating a reconstruction of this alternation for the grammar of Proto-Indo-European.

Jóhanna Barðdal Dept. of Linguistics Ghent University Blandijnberg 2 Ghent, 9000 Belgium

For comments and discussions, we are grateful to Cynthia A. Johnson, Svetlana Kleyner, four anonymous reviewers and Artemij Keidan, one of the guest-editors of this issue, as well as the audiences in Thessaloniki (2017) and San Antonio (2017) where earlier versions of this work were presented. We thank Vytis Vidūnas for help with the Lithuanian data and Krzysztof Stroński for help with the Polish data. Jóhanna Barðdal is particularly grateful to the late Olaf J. Westvik, who drew her attention, as far back as in 2003, to the special status of the type of data discussed in this article. This research was supported with a generous research grant to Jóhanna Barðdal (PI) from the European Research Council (EVALISA, grant nr. 313461) and to Leonid Kulikov from the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie program (grant nr. 665778) and from the NCN (POLO-NEZ grant nr. 2015/19/P/SH2/02028) during a research stay at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Contributions: JB initiated the research, JB, LK and RP gathered the data, planned the manuscript and wrote the text, PAK generated the map, JB and LK revised the text for production, all authors contributed equally to the data analysis and to the discussion.


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Published Online: 2020-09-18
Published in Print: 2020-09-25

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