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Transitivity, causation and verb classes

In Tamil there is a syntactic (and semantic) distinction between verbs which corresponds in most languages to what is called intransitive/transitive, or causative/non-causative. This has to do with whether an action has an object (either animate or inanimate) or whether it takes place without affecting some other person or thing.

Many native speakers of Tamil intuitively feel that the distinction in their language is not one of cause and effect but one of volition. That is, the important thing is whether an action is performed with the free will of the agent or whether his will is controverted or somehow impeded in its function, or controlled by something.

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