From: Wayne Leman (Wayne_Leman@SIL.ORG)
Date: Wed May 23 2001 - 14:58:37 EDT
----- Original Message -----
From: "c stirling bartholomew" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> on 5/23/01 2:00 AM, Randall Buth wrote:
> > Possibly exactly opposite the the above quote about the genitive,
> > the genitive case is LESS TRANSITIVE than the accusative, it carries
> > less weight and less content than the accusative.
> Randall or anyone else,
> Does this statement serve as a definition of the term TRANSITIVE?
No, Randall did not define transitivity, as it is used today by some
linguists to refer to a scalar value, rather than a polar value (simply
transitive or instransitive).
> The way
> this term is tossed around in current linguistic circles is at times a
> little mystifying.
Yes, indeed. It must be very mystifying to those not yet introduced to the
sanctum sanctorum of linguistic wisdom.
The seminal article on the new scalar way of viewing transitivity was
published in 1980, titled "Transitivity in Grammar and Discourse," by Paul
Hopper and Sandy Thompson, in the journal Language. Many university
libraries will have this journal. Thompson is still a professor of
linguistics at UCLA where Randall Buth did his doctorate in linguistics (on
word order in Aramaic).
Talmy Givon, following Hopper and Thompson (Givon was likely at UCLA when
Randall was there), lists the following aspects of a "Semantic definition of
transitive event" on page 76 of his book Functionalism and Grammar (John
Benjamins, 1995). Givon also deals with degrees of transitivity in a number
of his earlier books. Here is what Givon says:
Semantic definitionof transitive event
a. Agent: The prototypical transitive clause involves a volitional,
controlling, actively-initiating agent who is respondible for the event,
thus its salient cause.
b. Patient: The prototypical transitive event involves a non-volitional,
inactive non-controlling patient who registers the event's changes-of-state,
thus its salient effect.
c. Verbal modality: The verb os the prototypical transitive clause codes an
event that is perfective (non-durative), sequential (non-perfect) and realis
(non-hypothetical). The prototype transitive event is thus fast-paced,
completed, real, and perceptually-cognitively salient.
It would be most interesting to see a study of Hellenistic Greek done from
the viewpoint of degrees of transitivity. Cases would be involved (clauses
with overt noun or pronoun objects in the accusative case will typically be
more transitive than clauses with dative case objects), as well as the
tense-aspect system, plus the very lexical semantics of specific verbs
("kill" is typically a highly transitive verb in different languages; "see"
is much less semantically transitive).
Well, I'm sure this additional information will further mystify some, but I
hope it clarifies for others.
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