Sunday, 29 April 2012

Phylogenesis: The Ergative Model

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 288):
The coming of this pattern to predominance in the system of modern English is one of a number of related developments that have been taking place in the language over the past 500 years or more, together amounting to a far–reaching and complex process of semantic change. These changes have tended, as a whole, to emphasise the textual function, in the organisation of English discourse, by comparison with the experiential function; and within the experiential function, to emphasise the cause–&–effect aspect of processes by comparison with the ‘deed–&–extension’ one. … [The English transitivity system] is particularly unstable in the contemporary language, having been put under great pressure by the need for the language continually to adapt itself to a rapidly changing environment, and by the increasing functional demands that have been made on it ever since Chaucer’s time.

Pronominal Case Marking Is A Feature Of Mood, Not Transitivity

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 286n):
The account of lexical ergativity has sometimes been supported by reference to pronominal case marking in English. But this is also a mistake; pronominal case marking is not a feature of the experiential system of transitivity but rather of the interpersonal system of mood: the non-oblique (‘nominative’) case is used for Subjects in finite clauses and the oblique (‘accusative’) case in all other environments (including Subjects in non-finite clauses). It is thus related to arguability status, not the transitive model of transitivity.

Lexical Ergativity Is More Delicate Grammatical Ergativity

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 286n):
Some linguists have in fact thought that English is only lexically ergative. But this is not a tenable position once we realise that lexis and grammar are not separate modules or components, but merely zones within a continuum: ‘lexical ergativity’ in English is an extension in delicacy of ‘grammatical ergativity’ within the experiential clause grammar; and the explanation for the evolution of ergative patterning is grammatical in the first instance rather than lexical.

Ergativity & Delicacy

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 286):
But ergativity is not restricted to the lexical zone of lexicogrammar. Rather it is also a grammatical phenomenon, and the explanation can be stated in grammatical, rather than lexical, terms since it is the grammar that engenders the lexical patterns

The Ergative & Transitive Models

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 285):
The ergative model is now fully systemic in English; that is, it is not restricted to certain registers, but together with the transitive model, it makes up the general system of transitivity, and it has been gaining ground over the last half a millenium. The two models complement one another, which is why they are variably foregrounded across registers: they embody different generalisations about the flux of experience, resonating with different situation types.

Registers In Which The Ergative Model Is Foregrounded

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 285):
These registers include those that are collectively known as Scientific English — registers that evolved over the last 500 years or so; but they also include those that are collectively known as casual conversation — the frontier of change in English.

Ergativity [Theoretical Location]

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 281n):
Note that ‘transitivity’ is the name for the whole system, including both the ‘transitive’ model and the ‘ergative’ one. ‘Ergativity’ is thus not the name of a system, but a property of the system of transitivity.