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Transitive Absolutes

An examples of these phrasal or compound verbs is the verb ޱţ ׶ԧ kuttam sollu `blame', (i.e. `say-blame') which combines a nominal object with a verb stem in a kind of compound, equivalent to the English verb `to blame'. The noun, though functioning as the object of the verb, is not marked with the normal accusative marker. Though no accusative is marked, no other noun in the sentence may be taken as the object of that verb either, so that the structure of English `he blamed his sister for the problem', with `sister' as the object of the verb `blame', cannot be replicated in Tamil. In Tamil the object of the verb ޱţ ׶ԧ kuttam sollu must be marked with some other case, in this instance the `locative' of animates, i.e. ɹ which in ST would be kitte, i.e. ¨ ٴչ ӹٻ ޱţ ׶ԨԨ avan tangecci kitte kastatte patti kuttam sonnaan. The case marking for the item glossed `problem' may also be problematical, i.e., is not immediately predictible. In the above example the phrase `for the problem' might also be marked with dative plus ȴ aaha `for the sake of, on behalf of', i.e. ӹ⡴Դ kastattukkaaha; the case-marking of `sister' might also be realized with the postposition ԯ paattu, which is derived historically from the past participle of the verb ԯ paaru `see', but must be glossed in modern Tamil something like `direct the attention toward' when used with verbs like siri or kole `bark' to indicate the person being laughed or barked at.

It should be obvious that verbs like these `incorporated-object transitives' or transitive `absolutes' are problematical, and really need a case-frame to indicate who or what is the semantic target, if not the syntactic target, of the action. In fact researchers feel that verbs must be scaled for degree of transitivity, since `blaming' or `seeing' is in some sense less transitive than `breaking' or `killing', actions which have a definite effect on an object, whereas to be blamed or seen does not affect the `target' of the action in the same way.

Thus to refer to ٹ II, intr. as an intransitive kind of breaking since the process or person who caused the breaking is not known is also not as neat a distinction as one would like, even though the morphology of Tamil gives us to ٹ's, one `intransitive', i.e. without known agent, as in ٹ kannaadi odenjadu `the glass broke', the other `transitive', as in ¨ ٿ ٹԨ avan kannaadiye odeccaan `He broke the glass.' These `intransitives' are also usually possible only with a third-person, often neuter, `subject,' i.e. `glass.' Yet to think of glass as the `subject' of `intransitive' breaking but as the object or target of transitive breaking (when the agent of the action is known), is illogical.But as anyone who has dealt with young children knows, an argument is often likely to ensue between the parent and the child over who the agent of the breaking was, with the parent claiming that the action was transitive and that there had to be an agent, while the child argues that the action had no cause and no agent---``it just broke." Parents typically contend this is not the case, and that responsibility or blame has to be assigned; children, even when found with rocks in their hands, attempt to deny this contention.



next up previous
Next: Common Verbalizers Up: Verbalizers and Compound Previous: Verbalizers and Compound



Vasu Renganathan
Sat Nov 2 21:16:08 EST 1996