Indefinite Objects: Scrambling, Choice Functions, and Differential Marking

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Contact Contact Us Help. The situation is less clear than in Spanish, as there are speakers who retain DOM on direct objects under passivisation, too. Importantly, however, even in these varieties, DOM and dative show some distinct behaviour. While dative can appear on non-derived subjects, as well as indirect objects, the exceptional accusative only appears on derived subjects. Differential object marking in Kashmiri appears in two domains. With respect to passivisation, Kashmiri behaves like Hindi: while some speakers allow retaining accusative on passivised direct objects, such logical objects can also become nominative subjects.

This is never possible with dative indirect objects. This is illustrated in the following examples. Like direct objects with DOM, such indirect objects do not control agreement either. Unlike direct objects, however, indirect objects never lose their case-marking. Crucially, direct objects only retain their case-marking optionally: this means that direct objects behave as a natural class with respect to passivisation, independently of whether they would trigger DOM or not.

Indirect objects are different: their dative case-marking is always retained, as shown in Second, differential object marking with personal pronoun direct objects is sensitive to aspect and the person of both the subject and the direct object. This is a so-called global case split : it is global because the properties of two arguments determine case-marking on one of them, rather than just the properties of a single argument as in a local split; cf.

Descriptively, in the non-perfective aspect, personal pronoun objects appear in their dative form if the person of the direct object is higher than the person of the subject on the hierarchy in 13 :. Examples are shown in The case highlighted for each example indicates the case of the direct object. In this second domain of differential object marking, passivisation works in the same way. In 16a , the active sentence, the direct object and the indirect object are both in their dative forms.

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In 16b , the logical direct object is promoted to subject and is morphologically unmarked cf. Examining patterns of passivisation in Spanish, Hindi, and Kashmiri, we find that DOM objects behave like other direct objects, rather than indirect objects in each language. Direct objects can be promoted to subject and lose their case-marking, controlling agreement with the finite verb.

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None of these languages allow indirect objects to undergo the same process. Hindi and Kashmiri differ from Spanish in that both have varieties in which DOM can be retained on the logical object. While retaining case-marking on the passivised object is possible for direct objects, this is not the case with indirect objects. These must retain their dative case. In 17 , the woman is the logical direct object of see , which has been relativised.

In ditransitive constructions, English allows either internal argument to appear as the head of a reduced relative, as shown in Like with passives above, we can compare direct and indirect objects by testing their distribution in reduced relatives. Spanish allows reduced relatives modifying a DP, as shown in In ditransitives, it is not possible to relativise the indirect object the recipient , as shown in 20a , but it is possible to relativise the direct object the theme , as shown in 20b. Yet direct objects with and without DOM pattern together, independently of their ability to trigger DOM, and they pattern to the exclusion of indirect objects.

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Note also that it is not an inherent inability of ditransitive constructions to appear as reduced relatives, as 20b shows: the direct object can be relativised in the context of an indirect object as well. According to Rajesh Bhatt p. This is shown in While these data resemble the passives discussed in Section 2.

Such predicates modify one of the arguments in a clause but are often restricted to modifying the subject or the direct object Odria English examples are shown in In 22a , the depictive secondary predicate drunk can be controlled by either the subject or the object. In 22b , however, only the subject can control the depictive secondary predicate and the indirect object cannot cf. Williams Spanish behaves like English and Basque, see below in allowing the subject and the direct object to control a depictive secondary predicate, but not the goal indirect object.

The examples in 23 illustrate the relevant patterns. The object, being inanimate, is a direct object without DOM. Like in passivisation, direct objects pattern together irrespective of whether they trigger DOM or not, to the exclusion of the indirect object. Odria shows that as in English and Spanish, Basque direct objects and subjects can control depictive secondary predicates, but not indirect objects. For those varieties of Basque which have DOM marked with a suffix homophonous to dative , this is true of both unmarked and marked direct objects.

In all languages with the homophony that I am aware of, it is always the DOM marker that is deleted and never the dative marker. Here, the appearance of a on the direct object is ungrammatical or at least very restricted. However, when one of these markers is absent in ditransitive constructions, it is always the DOM marker, never the indirect object marker see also Richards 30—31 for discussion and references.

If direct objects with DOM and indirect objects were the same type of syntactic object, we would expect that either object could lose its marker and possibly that word order becomes flexible. This is not the case, however. Indirect objects must retain their dative case.

Indefinite Objects

A reviewer points out that this pattern, in which only a single marker can appear, could be explained on the syntactic view by locality: it would simply be the higher recipient argument that is assigned the single available case expressed by a. While this is true, such an explanation is arguably less adequate for languages in which both markers can appear, like in varieties of Hindi. There seems to be variation among speakers of Hindi, in this case, however. Mohanan marks two -ko phrases as ungrammatical:. Bhatt 40—41 mentions that Kashmiri behaves in the same way.

In ditransitive constructions where the direct object could get DOM based on aspect and its semantic properties, DOM is blocked when there is a dative indirect object as well. In this section, I present further, language-specific asymmetries between dative and DOM from Kashmiri, Spanish, and Palizzese, a Southern Italian variety, which indicate that these languages distinguish direct objects from indirect objects syntactically. The relative person of the subject and the object determines whether pronominal direct objects appear in their morphologically unmarked nominative or a morphologically marked form that is homophonous with dative Kashmiri is split-ergative: subjects are ergative in the perfective.

This is determined based on the hierarchy shown in To give a concrete example, the case-marking on a second person direct object depends on the person of the subject. If the subject is first person, the object surfaces in its nominative form, if the subject is third person, the object surfaces in its dative form.

The relevant examples are repeated below:. Otherwise, it is NOM. Consider now the behaviour of indirect objects. This is shown in 29a,b. In addition, direct objects also alternate between nominative and dative in ditransitive constructions. In 30 , both internal arguments are pronominal. DAT appears in the dative, as expected from the hierarchical Case-assignment rule. In 30b , however, with a first person subject, only the indirect object is dative — the direct object is nominative, as expected.

This shows that effects of the person hierarchy only affect the direct object, but never the indirect object. Nevertheless, the data in 30 again clearly shows that direct and indirect objects do not behave alike syntactically, even if they share their morphological exponent.


Case-marking in nominalisations differs from case-marking in the verbal domain. Instead, these arguments are often expressed as pre-nominal possessors or post-nominal genitives introduced by the preposition of see also Comrie ; Koptjevskaja-Tamm ; for cross-linguistic overviews of coding of arguments in nominalisations.

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This property of nominalisations provides a further test of the similarity of DOM and dative arguments: in Spanish, DOM is generally absent in nominalisations but see footnote 11 , but dative is present on exactly the arguments that are assigned dative from a verb. If both DOM and dative are exponents of identical syntactic structures and their cases have the same source, the expectation is that both or neither can be retained in nominalisations. This is not the case: DOM is, like accusative, unvailable in nominalisations, while dative is available.